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...

Two Kansas City, Kan., lawmakers present at the news conference who represent the area around the casino differed on what should happen next.

Sen. Chris Steineger said he hoped the Coordinating Council would approve and forward the agreement to the U.S. Interior Department with the state's endorsement.

While he acknowledged that state lawmakers have been almost evenly split over the issue for a decade, "most realize gambling is happening anyway," said Steineger. "The question is do we harness it and regulate it?

"I think a majority would approve of a tribal casino in Wyandotte County that captures gambling dollars for Kansas and hampers any other gambling expansion in the state."

But Rep. Margaret Long, also a Democrat, disagreed. She said the full Kansas Legislature should debate the issue in January.

"This is too important for a select few to make the decision," she said.

Under the agreement, the casino would pay the state 12 percent of gross income from gambling on the first $100 million of revenue, and 22 percent after that.

The tribes also would pay the Unified Government of Wyandotte County 4.2 percent of gross for seven years, and 6.5 percent thereafter.

In exchange, the state would agree to sharply limit the number of competing slots on the Kansas side of the state line.

If the state allowed more than 500 slot machines within 100 miles of the new casino, tribal payments to the state would be reduced, based on the number of competing machines in play. If the total reached 1,200, All said, the tribal payment would drop to zero.

"Five hundred slots doesn't excite us very much," said Larry Seckington, a top executive with Kansas Racing that operates The Woodlands, which for years has unsuccessfully sought state approval for a casino and resort hotel.

"It would depend on what kind of tax rate they're talking about for us," Seckington said. "But it's hard to justify the expenses for remodeling, for very expensive gaming machines and surveillance and slot tracking equipment and all the other expenses involved for 500 machines."

Other parts of the agreement set restrictions for up to 1,500 slots outside the 100-mile radius.

The agreement also pledges the state will not consent to any other tribal casino proposal on Indian trust land within 100 miles of the consortium facility.

That didn't please the landless Delaware tribe, which on Monday said it would later this week formally request federal approval of an 80-acre tract, also near 118th Street and State Avenue, as restored tribal reservation land. The tribe settled in this area in the 19th century and relocated to Oklahoma in 1867, but has never had its own reservation.

If the Kansas land is approved, the Delaware propose to build a $250 million casino resort, RV park and automobile museum.

Both plans require approval of the Interior Department and the National Indian Gaming Commission.

The state's stance, however, could be fatal to other tribal proposals. All said Monday that non-Kansas tribes can expect a cold shoulder from Sebelius in any casino talks "as of today."

He said the governor's position is unchanged from prior administrations that have negotiated only with Kansas-based tribes.

"I don't have enough fingers to count the number of Oklahoma tribes that want to open casinos in Kansas," All said.

The consortium would cover the costs of state regulation of the tribal facility up to $1.7 million a year. The agreement sets up the state as the casino's principal regulator, with a new five-member appeals agency to be established with three members appointed by the governor and two by the tribes.

Under the agreement, the state could fine the casino for compact violations and other problems. The state also would publicly report casino revenues, slot machine payback rates and other data typically held private by tribal casinos.

"This is the most visible location in the state," said All. "There will be transparency as to the finances of this casino, down to individual games."