New casino rules
Topeka As lawmakers Wednesday ended the legislative session that will always be known as the breakthrough session for gambling, state leaders approved procedures to get four new casinos in Kansas.
"We're on a steep learning curve," said Kansas Lottery Executive Director Ed Van Petten.
The Lottery Commission approved a process to accept and review applications for the casinos.
The eight-page document approved unanimously during a telephone conference meeting will kick off a flurry of activity during the next few months.
Elections to allow casino gambling have already been set for June in Cherokee County in southeast Kansas and Ford County in southwest Kansas, and in August in Sedgwick County.
In March, the Legislature approved allowing destination casinos in Wyandotte County, southeast Kansas and south-central Kansas that will require a minimum of $225 million in investment. A fourth, in Ford County in southwest Kansas, must have a $50 million investment.
If voters favor casinos in the local elections, then casino applicants will have 90 days to submit proposals to the Lottery Commission. The commission will then have 90 days to submit recommendations to another review board, although that deadline could be extended by Gov. Kathleen Sebelius.
Van Petten said Sebelius has told him that if more time is needed, she will grant extensions. "She would rather have it done right than done quick," he said.
Van Petten said the casinos could be operating in two to three years. The new legislation also allows slot machines at pari-mutuel tracks, which he said could be in place by the start of 2008.
He said since the Legislature approved the bill there has been a lot of interest in the process of picking casino operators.
"There seems to be more interest in Wyandotte County; obviously it's closer to the most population," Van Petten said.
But the process could be derailed by legal action.
There are four casinos in Kansas owned and operated by American Indian tribes and allowed by federal law.
The Prairie Band Potawatomi, which operates a hotel-casino in Mayetta, said the new bill violates the Kansas Constitution's requirement that the state must own and operate gambling enterprises. Under the bill, the casinos will have private management but be overseen by the state.
Attorney General Paul Morrison plans to file a legal challenge to the law to get a ruling on whether it's constitutional.
Until that issue is settled, Sebelius said she didn't expect many applicants.