Wichita native Phil Ruffin, owner of the Treasure Island Casino Hotel in Las Vegas, recently purchased the Woodlands racetrack in Kansas City, Kansas from owner Howard Grace for an undisclosed amount. The track, which has been shuttered since 2008, offered greyhound, Thoroughbred and quarterhorse racing.
Ruffin owns two other closed greyhound tracks in Kansas, Wichita Greyhound Park in Park City and Camptown Greyhound Park in Frontenac, which he also hopes to reopen. He would have to apply for new licenses to operate racinos at the locations. Ruffin said he would want the tax rate lowered at Camptown and slots to be approved for Wichita Greyhound Park, which closed in 2007.
Ruffin stated if the Woodlands reopens, 500-700 jobs would be created. “If we could tie all three tracks in, put them all to bed, we could employ roughly 2,000 people. It’s a jobs bill. There are people in the government that don’t really care about that, but it’s a big deal. A very, very big deal. You can’t find 2,000 jobs anywhere,” Ruffin said.
Ruffin’s purchase comes follows the Kansas Senate’s 24-12 passage of a bill that would allow the Woodlands to offer horseracing plus 2,800 slot machines–600 more than a 2007 law allowed. The bill also would allow an increase in the facility manager’s take of revenue from 25 percent to 64.5 percent—the same amount as casinos with slot machines. The state would get 22 percent, Wyandotte County would receive 2 percent and 10 percent would go to purses for horse races.
The bill’s sponsor, state Senator Steve Fitzgerald, said he believes it has strong support and will pass through the Kansas House in the next session, starting in January. “This is a good bill. If this works, I believe, it will benefit the whole state,” he said, adding, “I ran and won based on my support to reopen the Woodlands. If I don’t bring home the pork or bacon, whichever your taste is, it’s not going to be good. In this case, this is definitely in the interest of the district.”
Ruffin said if he can’t reopen the Woodlands, he’s still pleased with his investment due to its proximity to Kansas Speedway, Sporting Park, the Legends outlet shopping area and other attractions. “It’s got a great location. I’ve got a 400-acre piece of ground. Still valuable,” Ruffin said.
Mark Evans, president of the Kansas Thoroughbred Association, said, “We want to get racing back in Kansas. As a horseman, I want to see the track open.”