Kansas Senate Says No Vote ‘Til 2032

Kansans in Sedgwick County may not get to vote on a casino or slots at Wichita Greyhound Park until 2032, if a Senate-passed measure passes the House. County voters narrowly rejected expanded gambling in 2007. Opponents of the measure said it is retaliation against billionaire greyhound park owner Phil Ruffin (l.).

The Kansas Senate recently has focused attention on several gambling-related measures. Senators recently voted 28-12 to approve House Bill 2125 that would prevent residents in Sedgwick County from voting on a casino in south-central Kansas or slots at the Wichita Greyhound Park until 2032. The bill now goes to the House.

State Senator Oletha Faust-Goudeau of Wichita said the majority of voters in her district voted in favor of adding slots at the greyhound park, which would allow it to reopen and create 500 new jobs. This bill would rob them of their chance to vote on it again in the future.

State Senator Carolyn McGinn of Sedgwick noted the bill originally was a real estate measure, but senators replaced its content with the anti-gambling provisions. McGinn said she opposed gambling but did not understand why the Senate could vote to stop people from voting on a local issue.

Dave Unruh, chairman of the Sedgwick County Commission, said he believed the state should decide gambling measures. “We are not inclined to make an issue of it,” he said.

In August 2007, voters decided against allowing slots at the greyhound park by less than 250 votes. In a separate vote, 56 percent of voters said no to allowing a casino in Sedgwick County.

Senate President Susan Wagle said the issue has already been settled by Sedgwick County voters. Opponents questioned why the state would prevent local voters from having a say for so long.

Glenn Thompson, spokesman for the anti-gambling group Stand Up For Kansas, said, “The intent of the bill is to stop the waste of time of a possibility of another vote in Sedgwick County. A revote would be very, very expensive on the citizens. Once the citizens voted on the matter, even if it was a one-vote difference, the citizens expected that they would not have to have that vote again. When you have a referendum you don’t tell the citizens, if it’s a narrow vote we’re going to have a revote.”

Thompson criticized billionaire Phil Ruffin, the owner of the greyhound park, for seeking another vote on the topic. Ruffin commented, “I hope the House strikes it down. The track would employ a lot of people. If I had so much influence, that vote wouldn’t have passed.”

The Senate also approved House Bill 2272, sponsored by state Senator Jacob LaTurner of Pittsburg, which would lower the minimum financial commitment required to invest in the southeast Kansas casino market. Currently the law requires a $25 million fee paid to the state and at least a $225 million investment. Under LaTurner’s bill, the fee would be decreased to $5.5 million and the investment lowered to $50 million. Southeast Kansas officials have said the investment and fee required from developers has diminished interest in their area, especially since the Quapaw Tribe built a casino just across the Oklahoma border.

Also in Kansas, people passing through Kansas City International Airport soon will be able to purchase lottery tickets and play keno. The Missouri Lottery will operate the games, available inside the airport’s passenger terminals. Joe McBride, a spokesman for the Kansas City Aviation Department, said revenue collected through the gaming will go toward education.