Tribes, Governor Reach Accord on Kansas City, Kan., Casino Plan

A proposal to build a tribal casino near the Kansas Speedway area -- and reshape the region's gambling industry in the process -- took clearer shape on Monday. But it still faces legislative and regulatory hurdles in both Kansas and...


A proposal to build a tribal casino near the Kansas Speedway area -- and reshape the region's gambling industry in the process -- took clearer shape on Monday.

But it still faces legislative and regulatory hurdles in both Kansas and Washington.

At news conferences in Topeka and Kansas City, Kan., Matt All, chief counsel to Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, unveiled terms of a proposed agreement with the Kansas-based Kickapoo and Sac and Fox tribes that he said was the result of "months of painstaking negotiations."

The tribal partners, operating as the Kansas City Intertribal Gaming Management Consortium, propose a $210 million casino and tourism complex on 40 acres at the northeast corner of 118th Street and State Avenue. The project would include a 250-room hotel, a conference center and 1,000 restaurant seats in multiple areas from snack bars to fine dining.

A consultant to the tribes has estimated the complex would win at least $171 million annually from gamblers, carving out a 26.4 percent share of the $614 million metropolitan gambling pie. Some of the tribal casino's winnings would go to local and state government.

In a prepared statement, Sebelius hailed the agreement as good for the tribes and good for Kansas.

"This project will create hundreds of jobs, attract thousand of tourists and generate millions of dollars for the state and local governments," she said. State officials estimate the casino could generate $40 million or more annually for the state.

The proposed agreement sets out an unusual deal that trades some tribal sovereignty for state protection from would-be competitors. The tribes, for example, agreed to "waivers of sovereign immunity" over tribal lands and adherence to state law. In exchange, the state promised to strictly limit gambling competition on the Kansas side of the metropolitan area.

Competitors and would-be competitors were not happy with the announcement.

"It is not in the best interests of the state of Kansas to limit the development of destination resort casinos in Wyandotte County to just one proposal," said Fred Gillmann, president and chief executive of Las Vegas-based Gillmann Group.

The Gillmann Group is proposing to build a $250 million casino project on behalf of the Oklahoma-based Delaware tribe within view of the consortium project near the same 118th Street intersection.

"We never speak out against expansion," said Troy Stremming, an executive at the Ameristar Kansas City Casino and Hotel and president of the Missouri Riverboat Gaming Association. "The industry will welcome them into a highly competitive market.

"But," added Stremming, "I don't know if it's good, sound fiscal policy for the state to enter into monopolies with any industry. I find that concerning.

"If the state is willing and ready to approve this type of gambling expansion, I wish they would just open it up to the marketplace, for tribal or commercial gaming, or whatever is best for the state."

The new casino is no sure thing. The plan must be approved by various state and federal bodies before construction can begin, starting with Kansas lawmakers.

"This is not a done deal," said All. "This is a first step in the process."

The consortium was not represented at the news conference. But a spokesman released a brief statement later Monday that praised Sebelius and her staff for their cooperation "that has been extraordinarily deliberate and fair."

Tribal officials did not respond to interview requests Monday.

The 82-page document, structured as a contract between the state and the tribes, will be presented Wednesday to the Kansas Legislature's Joint Committee on Tribal-State Relations.

All said that committee will decide whether to approve the agreement for legislative debate next session or move quickly and forward the agreement to the Legislative Coordinating Council. That seven-member panel is empowered to act on behalf of the state when the Legislature is not in session.

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