Dodge City The first seven weeks of operations at the first state-owned casino in Kansas have caused cautious optimism for state gaming officials.
The Boot Hill Casino & Resort in Dodge City is on pace to make $39.7 million for the first year. The casino made $5.1 million from its opening on Dec. 15 to Jan. 31, when 100,847 people gambled at the casino.
Of that take, $1.1 million went to the state.
Projections before the casino opened was that Boot Hill would generate $44 million in net gambling revenues during its first year, with the state’s take approaching $10 million. Officials hoped the casino would average 20,000 visitors a week — or about 1 million visitors over the next 12 months.
“I think things are going well,” said Ed Van Petten, executive director of the Kansas Lottery.
The lottery owns the rights to the gambling equipment, but Boot Hill’s management company operates the casino itself.
“We’re certainly on track,” said Mike Tamburelli, Boot Hill’s general manager.
The casino employs 260 workers and will add 20 more soon. About 600 people would work at the casino-resort when the second phase, which includes a 124-room hotel, is completed in 2010.
Boot Hill offers a 20,000-square-foot gaming floor with 584 slot machines, 10 blackjack and poker tables, one roulette wheel and one craps table.
The state-and-private business partnership has hit some roadbumps, Van Petten said. The corporate world sometimes balks at the need to run business decisions through the state bureaucracy in Topeka, he said.
But both Van Petten and Tamburelli said any issues were minor.
“I’m sure the casino might have been frustrated at points,” Van Petten said. “But we’ve kept our toys in the crib, so to speak, and things are looking good.”
The process of opening the Dodge City casino went smoothly when compared with efforts to open three other casinos across the state.
Last Friday, the state gave the final approval required for developers who plan to build a $368 million casino in Wyandotte County near the Kansas Speedway. The lottery is renegotiating a contract with a Wichita-area casino developer, and it had to extend a deadline to April 16 for applications in the southeast Kansas zone after no proposals were submitted.
The state law allowing the casinos includes requirements for programs to address problem gambling. In Dodge City, that effort has so far included training three counselors in gambling addiction at New Chance, an addiction inpatient center in Dodge City. Another three trained counselors work at Area Mental Health, the community corrections program and at a Dodge City boys home. Seminars also have been offered in the area.
Kevin Ford, a counselor at New Chance, said he doesn’t know of anyone who has sought help yet for gambling addiction. “But I expect it to happen, it’s just a matter of when,” he said. “It’s not doom and gloom, but we’re going to have plenty of people coming in.”