Casino developers to show plans to board

Topeka – A state board will take another step forward this week in its efforts to decide which developers should build and manage four state-owned resort casinos.

The Kansas Lottery Gaming Facility Review Board will begin hearing presentations from prospective casino managers and hear public comment on new gaming ventures today. The seven-member board will meet in each of the four areas of the state that would house the resort casinos.

The sessions start in Cherokee County, where the board will hear a developer’s plan for a proposed casino in southeast Kansas. The board also will listen Thursday and Friday to three applicants competing for a south-central Kansas casino.

The board won’t receive presentations from two developers seeking to build a Wild West theme casino in Ford County until July 31 at the Dodge City Civic Center, 2110 First Ave.

Butler National Service Corp. of Olathe and the Dodge City Resort and Gaming Co. of Wichita are both vying for the right to build a casino in Dodge City.

Hearings in the fourth gaming zone, Wyandotte County, will take place Aug. 13 through 15.

Stephen Martino, executive director of the Kansas Racing and Gaming Commission, said Tuesday that it’s unclear how much public interest there will be in the hearings.

The Sumner County Sheriff’s Department is preparing for as many as 1,000 people to attend the south-central session in Belle Plaine, Martino said. A controversy over whether the casino should be placed near Mulvane or Wellington has provoked more interest in the selection process there.

„This has become a very passionate issue in Sumner County,“ Martino said.

The panel will use the information from the hearings to determine which projects best provide the state with revenue, support tourism and serve the best interests of the state’s citizens. The board also will receive help from consultants, who’ll independently analyze the feasibility of proposals, and state gaming regulators, who’ll be performing preliminary background checks of the applicants.

The review board is scheduled to decide the winning developers for Cherokee and Sumner counties when it meets Aug. 21 and 22 in Topeka. The selections in Ford and Wyandotte counties are scheduled to be completed Sept. 18 and 19 in Topeka.

After those selections are made, the winning applicants can begin building. Although before they operate, the companies and their employees still must clear a final background investigation conducted by state regulators.

Although employees at all levels will face reviews, the heaviest scrutiny will go to top-level company officers and investors who hold more than 0.5 percent ownership, according to Patrick Martin, chief counsel to the state Racing and Gaming Commission.

Individuals convicted of a felony, a gambling-related offense or crimes of moral turpitude would automatically be disqualified from a casino operation, he said.

Some projections suggest Kansas could receive up to USD 200 million a year from new gaming ventures, should four casinos and slots machines at two racetracks become fully operational.

The state is likely to benefit from USD 80.5 million in fees from chosen developers within the next year. It could also receive its 22 percent take of the profits generated by any temporary casinos, which winning applicants could set up while building their permanent resorts.

Martino said it’s possible that temporary sites could be running within six months of the review board’s final decisions in August and September.