Gambling decisions are ‘not for sale,’ leader says

State-sponsored casinos could open in 2010

A state gambling official says Kansans can expect slot machines spinning at The Woodlands in Wyandotte County sometime in July or August, and full-fledged state-sponsored casinos up and running sometime in 2010.

Stephen Martino, executive director of the Kansas Racing and Gaming Commission, also says that nothing would be left to chance in the process for choosing precisely which companies will get the exclusive contracts to build, develop and operate such state-sponsored gambling centers.

“This process is not for sale,” Martino said. “It’s going to be squeaky clean.”

Martino, a Kansas University graduate, visited Lawrence on Thursday to discuss his agency’s approach to reviewing companies’ applications for developing casinos in the state.

The applications – 13 in all – are being reviewed by the Kansas Lottery, which is negotiating with operators before their proposals are forwarded to a review board for consideration.

The review board, with staff assistance from the commission, can recommend no more than one project for each of the state’s identified gambling zones: Wyandotte, Ford, Sumner and Cherokee counties.

The recommended projects then would go to the commission staff for review, including extensive background checks.

And make no mistake, Martino said: There’s plenty at stake. One project proposed for Wyandotte County would carry a $700 million price tag.

Whichever companies end up landing the deals also will get some guaranteed return, in the form of a 25-year period in which no other nontribal gambling operator would be able to set up shop in their respective areas.

“There is a great deal of money involved in the process,” Martino said.