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Archive for Thursday, May 14, 2009

Democrats call for changes in state gambling law

May 14, 2009

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— House and Senate Democratic leaders say the Legislature next year needs to rework the state’s gambling law to speed development of state-owned casinos and promote slot machines at racetracks.

“We do need to pass a gaming bill,” House Minority Leader Paul Davis, of Lawrence, said this week.

Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley, of Topeka, said there were enough votes in the Senate to pass gambling reform because the state has become so desperate for a piece of the action. He said the state could pull down hundreds of millions of dollars if the industry obtains legislative relief from what he called onerous investment and profit-sharing rules.

They said the stumbling block was opposition from Republicans who control both chambers. Legislative leaders didn’t push for a gambling debate this year in part because they don’t want it to get in the way of other issues like cutting state spending. There also was concern it could open the door to repealing the gambling law that barely passed in 2007.

The gambling law calls for one casino each in Ford, Sumner and Wyandotte counties, and either Cherokee or Crawford County, plus slots at the Woodlands in Kansas City and Camptown Greyhound Park in Frontenac.

Legislators expected the casinos and tracks to be operating by now but that hasn’t happened. Only the casino in Dodge City is under construction.

The other three applicants withdrew last year because of the economy. The Kansas Lottery, which owns the gambling, has received new bids for Wyandotte and Sumner counties, with a final selection by state regulators expected in September.

The Woodlands closed in August after owners couldn’t agree on a contract with the Lottery. Camptown has been closed since 2000. Both say they won’t reopen unless they receive a larger percentage from the slots revenue.

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