Kansas legislators and Gov. Kathleen Sebelius likely are breathing a sigh of relief following Friday's announcement that the Kansas Supreme Court had upheld the state's expanded gambling law.
That's because some of the money the state expects to collect from four state-owned resort casinos essentially has already been spent to balance the state budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1.
Although the court's ruling was not unexpected, the way the state went about legalizing expanded gambling created some doubts that needed to be put to rest before casino developers could be expected to invest large sums at four Kansas locations. The Legislature had failed several times to pass casino gambling measures that would have required a constitutional amendment and, therefore, approval in a statewide vote.
In 2007, lawmakers took another tack and approved legislation that made casino gambling part of the Kansas Lottery, which is owned and operated by the state. No other state has such a system, but the court decided the term "lottery" is broad enough to include slot machines and the operation of casino games.
That's lucky for the governor and state legislators, who approved a state budget that depends on millions of dollars in future gambling revenue to fund important projects. Gambling dollars, for instance, were targeted to help pay off bonds that will allow for the expansion of the Kansas University School of Pharmacy.
The court ruling clears away the last major roadblock for development of casinos in Wyandotte, Cherokee, Sumner and Ford counties and slot machines at racetracks in Kansas City, Kan., and Frontenac. The state has received applications from developers willing to operate at all the proposed sites, so it seems that Kansas is entering a new era in terms of gaming.
With Missouri considering a cap on casino development and new casino operations planned in Oklahoma, it remains to be seen whether revenue from Kansas casinos will meet the expectations of either the managers or the state. Many Kansans also will be interested to see whether the state sees increases in addictive gambling and the problems that go with it.
The courts say the state's casino gambling law is constitutional. It will be up to others in the state to determine whether it is a boon or a menace.