Kansas Southeast Zone Attracts Four Developers

Friday was the deadline for submitting bids to build a state-owned casino in Kansas' Southeast Gaming Zone. Four developers expressed interest: Treasure Island owner Phil Ruffin (l.) and the Quapaw Tribe's Downstream Casino; Castle Rock Resorts; JNB Gaming, formerly Peninsula Gaming; and Southeast Kansas Casino Partners LLC.

January 30 was the Kansas Lottery Commission’s deadline for receiving bids from developers to build a state-owned casino in the Southeast Kansas Gaming Zone, consisting of Cherokee and Crawford counties. Four developers have expressed interest.

Wichita native Phil Ruffin, owner of Treasure Island Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas, partnered with the Quapaw Tribe’s Downstream Casino to build a casino, restaurant and event center in the former Camptown Greyhound Park in Frontenac, owned by Ruffin.

The investment group Castle Rock Resorts proposed developing a casino, hotel, restaurants and a health club and spa complex in Cherokee County across the state line in Oklahoma near Downstream’s current location.

JNB Gaming proposed a $62 million project, including an 18,500 square foot casino with 500 slot machines and video poker; a 4,500 square foot, 125-seat restaurant called the Mining Company, a reference to the area’s heritage; two bars; a 100-room, four-level hotel; and a 12,000 square foot event center. JNB officials said its Kansas Crossing Casino & Hotel could generate $1.2 million in annual gaming revenues for the city, Crawford County and Cherokee County; property taxes would be paid to the city, county and Pittsburg School District. In addition, the project could create 300 new jobs. Formerly known as Peninsula Gaming, JNB helped develop the Kansas Star Casino near Mulvane in 2012 and the Boot Hill Casino in Dodge City.

And Southeast Kansas Casino Partners LLC has proposed a $140 million development on 123 acres in Cherokee County with U.S. 400 frontage, with two future construction phases. SEK Casino Partners officials said initial construction will include a casino with 1,500 gaming machines, 28 table games and 8 poker table rooms; 150-room hotel; showroom; 18,000 square foot convention center; several restaurants and a sports bar; an RV park; boathouse; equestrian center; and a tethered hot air balloon ride.

Kansas has three privately built, state-owned casinos authorized by 2007 legislation allowing casinos in four regions. Casinos have been built in Dodge City, Mulvane and Kansas City, Kansas. Developers backed away from the southeast zone partly due to competition from the Quapaw Tribe’s Downstream casino. To raise interest in the zone, last year legislators cut developers’ required investment from $250 million to $50 million.

The original deadline for applications was December 19 but the commission extended it to January 30. After commissioners approve the applications, a seven-member Lottery Gaming Facility Review Board will make the final selection which could come as soon as May following background checks.