Kanasas Yet again, Kansas lawmakers have delayed
introducing a bill to expand state-run gambling that would
include a casino for Kansas City, Kansas.
in the Senate said last week they would take the weekend
to work out the kinks in the plan. They are also working
to ensure they have the requisite 21 votes to pass the
gambling is never a sure bet in the Kansas Legislature.
Bills to expand slot machines and casinos are always proposed,
only to be defeated by anti-gambling lawmakers and competing
gambling groups that want to push their specific interests.
year, with lawmakers under a court order to increase school
funding by $400 million to $500 million, the pressure
to pass expanded gambling is back. So are the challenges.
we dont get gaming, we have to get money from someplace,
said Senate President Steve Morris, a Hugoton Republican.
Im cautiously optimistic.
said he hopes the gambling bill can be introduced this
obstacle right now is whether or not the gambling proposal
should include a prohibition on lawmakers and their families
making money from the deal. Senate leaders say thats
the only way to ensure theres no conflict of interest
Jim Barone, a Frontenac Democrat and a long-standing supporter
of expanded gambling, is fighting the provision. He also
wants the deal to allow Sumner County in south-central
Kansas to build a casino. Barones son is a lobbyist
working on behalf of Sumner Countys efforts to build
denied that he has any conflict of interest, and said
its unfair to exclude lawmakers and their families
from making money off of gambling when there are few similar
provisions in other legislative bills. He said farmers
in the Legislature routinely work for their own interest,
as do lawmakers who work as teachers, attorneys or corporate
good for the goose is good for the gander, he said.
This is economic activity that benefits everyone.
How can people who kneel at the altar of entrepreneurialism
tell people what they can do and what they cant?
son, Kevin Barone, declined to comment for this article.
who support the provision say they want to ensure that
all state-run gambling is free of corruption or conflicts
of interest among lawmakers. Opponents of expanded gambling
often raise the specter of corruption as a reason to vote
concern is that gaming interests could influence legislators,
Morris said. Its just one more safeguard to
make this bill as tight as possible.
leaders have said for weeks that they wouldnt introduce
the bill unless they had 21 votes. And week after week,
the bill is delayed. Even if a gambling proposal passes
the Senate, it faces another tough fight in the House,
where representatives are up for re-election. Some lawmakers
will be pressured to endorse gambling for local economic
development; others will be pressured to vote against
are some that will welcome the debate, and others who
would vote against any gambling proposal, said House
Speaker Doug Mays, a Topeka Republican. I would
say its 50-50, and I cant predict which way
it would go.
to an outline of the proposal, casinos would be built
in Kansas City, Kan., and in either Crawford or Cherokee
counties in southeast Kansas. Slot machines could be authorized
for tracks, including The
Woodlands in Kansas City, Kan., in Wichita and Frontenac,
and at a yet-to-be-built track in Dodge City. Voters in
each location would have to approve the proposal. The
casinos and slot machines would be owned by the state,
through the Kansas Lottery Commission. The proposed bill
includes a total of 7,000 slot machines for all tracks.
Denney, spokesman and lobbyist for Wyandotte County, said
the county has closely watched gambling negotiations over
the years as one plan after another fails.
problem to avoid, he said, is greed.
always been the fatal bullet, he said. Everybody
wants something. Every year we get that much closer. One
of these days, it will happen.