Kansas Developers Make Their Case

The three developers competing to build a state-owned casino in Kansas' Southeast Gaming Zone recently made presentations to the Kansas Lottery Gaming Facility Review Board, the panel that will make its choice known on June 23. Following a background check the state gaming commission will have 10 days to announce its final decision. Las Vegas casino owner Phil Ruffin (l.) is one of the bidders.

On May 29, the Kansas Lottery Gaming Facility Review Board heard presentations from the three developers who want to build a fourth and final state-owned casino in Southeast Kansas. The three casino applicants are Camptown Casino and Kansas Crossing Casino in Crawford County and Castle Rock Casino Resort in Cherokee County. The board will announce its decision at its next meeting on June 23, then the winning bidder will have to undergo a background check. After that, the Kansas Racing and Gaming Commission will have 10 days to vote to give the go-ahead.

The $84 million Camptown Casino in Frontenac in Crawford County would be financed by Phil Ruffin Sr., owner of Treasure Island in Las Vegas. He said there would be no mortgage on the property and he would pay cash for construction. Project Manager Scott Cooper said Camptown would bring in $47.6 million in gaming revenues, with tax revenues of nearly $13 million. It would attract 2,600 visitors daily, or about 950,000 visitors a year.

Cooper said the casino could open in 12 months or less, and eventually add another 250 slots, 10 table games, a 6,000 square foot convention center and an RV park. Michelle Nowell, senior vice president for communications at Treasure Island, said the casino would be linked with Treasure Island and benefit from its existing 60,000-name player database and promotional expertise.

The $74 million Kansas Crossing Casino offers the best location, at U.S. Highways 400 and 69 said investor Bruce Christenson. “There are 22,000 vehicles that pass by that intersection each day. That’s twice the traffic of Camptown. There are more reasons that make this the right location for a Southeast Kansas casino, including proximity to other attractions, including PSU cultural and sporting events,” he said.

Project officials also emphasized their experience with Boot Hill Casino in Dodge City and Kansas Star Casino in Mulvane, and noted Kansas Crossing would generate $43 million in annual revenue and attracting 520,000 visitors a year. They said the casino could open within one year.

Regarding the $145 million Castle Rock development, investor Brandon Steven told board members, “One of most common threads we heard is the need for more convention and meeting space in Southeast Kansas. When we heard this, we doubled what we had planned so we could host all types of venues, both large and small.” Investor Rodney Steven II said the casino would generate $83 million in gaming revenue in its first year, rising to $98 million in the fifth year, with $16.8-$18.8 million in non-gaming revenue in the first five years. He said Castle Rock would pay $22.3 million in taxes the first year.

The Stevens also announced that Castle Rock would host a World Series of Poker circuit event that would attract thousands of competitors. They dismissed the results of a study by Jay Sarno Associates funded by the Crawford County Crawford County Convention and Visitors Bureau which said Castle Rock was not “viable.”

Members of the public were invited to comment, and first up was Quapaw Tribe Chairman John Berry, who said his tribe’s Downstream Casino just over the Oklahoma state line was the “big monster” with “$20 million in the bank for legal expenses to fight anyone that gets a license in my backyard.”