Issue 286
March 6 - March 10, 2006
Volume 6
page 1
 

This Issue

Gaming News

Casino City's March Sweepstakes

Senate delays casino bill

Racetracks could be biggest winners

And the Oscar Goes to ... GoldenPalace.com? Internet Casino Leases Academy Award for $30,000

Wynn sells Macau casino rights to PBL

Show Time Elton John will be at The Colosseum at Caesars Palace.

Column The Secrets of the Threes and Elevens By Larry Edell

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Senate delays casino bill

As Reported by The Kansas City Star

TOPEKA, Kanasas — Yet again, Kansas lawmakers have delayed introducing a bill to expand state-run gambling that would include a casino for Kansas City, Kansas.

Leaders 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 measure.

Expanded 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.

This 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.

“If we don’t get gaming, we have to get money from someplace,” said Senate President Steve Morris, a Hugoton Republican. “I’m cautiously optimistic.”

Morris said he hopes the gambling bill can be introduced this week.

One 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 that’s the only way to ensure there’s no conflict of interest among lawmakers.

Sen. 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. Barone’s son is a lobbyist working on behalf of Sumner County’s efforts to build a casino.

Barone denied that he has any conflict of interest, and said it’s 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 executives.

“What’s 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 can’t?”

Barone’s son, Kevin Barone, declined to comment for this article.

Lawmakers 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 against gambling.

“The concern is that gaming interests could influence legislators,” Morris said. “It’s just one more safeguard to make this bill as tight as possible.”

Senate leaders have said for weeks that they wouldn’t 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 it.

“There 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 it’s 50-50, and I can’t predict which way it would go.”

According 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.

Don Denney, spokesman and lobbyist for Wyandotte County, said the county has closely watched gambling negotiations over the years as one plan after another fails.

The problem to avoid, he said, is greed.

“That’s always been the fatal bullet,” he said. “Everybody wants something. Every year we get that much closer. One of these days, it will happen.”

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