Archive for Saturday, May 8, 2010

Kan. Senate rejects bill to expand gambling

May 8, 2010


— The Kansas Senate narrowly rejected a bill late Friday night aimed at reviving the state’s dog- and horse-racing industry by bringing slot machines to racetracks.

The vote was 20-19 against the measure.

How they voted

The 20-19 vote late Friday night in the Kansas Senate against a bill rewriting the state’s gambling law in hopes of attracting slot machines to racetracks. A “yes” vote was to pass the bill. A “no” vote was to reject the bill. Of the 31 Republicans, 12 voted “yes,” 18 voted “no” and 1 did not vote. Of the 9 Democrats, 7 voted “yes” and 2 voted “no.”

Marci Francisco, D-Lawrence: Yes.

Anthony Hensley, D-Topeka: Yes.

Tom Holland, D-Baldwin City: No.

Senators debated the bill for six hours and became mired in a side debate over whether smoking should be banned at state-owned casinos.

Supporters had promoted the measure as a rural jobs bill, but conservative Republicans did not want to expand gambling.

The bill was designed to make slot machines more profitable for the owners of now-closed racetracks in Kansas City, Kan., and Frontenac, in southeast Kansas. It also would rewrite Kansas’ gambling laws to attract a developer for a state-owned casino in the state’s southeast corner.

But the bill faced opposition from developers of a state-owned casino at Kansas Speedway, the NASCAR track in Kansas City, Kan. And conservative Republicans said it was ironic that many legislators are pushing to increase taxes to prop up the state budget while some push for what amounts to tax incentives to woo reluctant gambling entrepreneurs to invest in Kansas.

“We’re slamming down beers, putting on beer goggles and waiting for the last wasted girl in the building,” said Sen. Ty Masterson, an Andover Republican.

Gambling supporters worried that banning smoking in state-owned casinos would hurt business, and cost the state revenues. Developers build and manage the casinos for the Kansas Lottery, which owns the rights to the new gambling and the gambling equipment. One casino opened in Dodge City in December, and the one at Kansas Speedway is under construction.

The debate over smoking overshadowed the reasons some senators are pushing the gambling bill. Supporters argue the state could reap up to $20 million a year from slots at racetracks, plus additional revenues from a southeast Kansas casino.

Meanwhile, the Senate approved a proposal for an $8.2 billion, 10-year program of transportation projects.

The 25-13 vote came late Friday night and sends the bill to the House, where its future is uncertain as lawmakers try to wrap up their annual session.

Paying for the projects would require up to $1.7 billion in state bonds and increasing registration fees for heavy trucks. Under the plan, sales tax revenues would be dedicated to highway projects in three years.


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