Smaller is Better in Kansas

The $70 million Kansas Crossing project was selected in a 5-2 vote by the Kansas Lottery Gaming Facility Review Board to develop a casino in the state's southeast gaming zone. Kansas Crossing, the smallest of the proposals, beat the $145 million Castle Rock and $84 million Frontenac Casino developments.

Following an 11-hour meeting that attracted hundreds of people, the seven-member Kansas Lottery Gaming Facility Review Board voted 5-2 to allow Kansas Crossing L.C. to develop a state-owned casino in Crawford County in the state’s southeast gaming zone. The other two votes went to the largest proposal, the 5 million Castle Rock in Cherokee County.

The $70 million Kansas Crossing project, the least expensive of three proposed plans, could open by next summer. It would be built south of Pittsburg at the junction of U.S. 400 and U.S. 69 south, and include 625 slot machines and 16 tables games plus a 120-room hotel. Analysts projected the property would attract about 500,000 visitors a year, and generate $36.6-$39 million in gross gaming revenue in 2019, resulting in $9.4 million in state taxes and $1.2 million in local taxes.

Board member and Shawnee County Commissioner Kevin Cook said, “This is an applicant that has a history with the state of Kansas. They have the background and a reasonable timeline.” Board member Jeff Oakes added, “I just feel it’s the right fit. It’s the right size for the market.”

Kansas Crossing spokeswoman Carrie Tedore stated, “Our team believes this is a great opportunity to finally deliver the right casino project to Southeast Kansas. We are confident that our regional casino development and marketing experience—especially our experience in Kansas, makes Kansas Crossing Casino and Hotel an outstanding project for the region.”

Kansas Crossing will be the final of four nontribal casinos allowed under a 2007 Kansas law. State-owned casinos already operate in Dodge City, south of Wichita and in Kansas City, Kansas. The Kansas Lottery is the legal owner of the casinos, which give the state a minimum of 22 percent of the gambling profits. The casino will be regulated by the state Racing and Gaming Commission, which will meet July 2 to consider the applicant’s background report and to take a final vote.

The other two competitors were the $84 million Frontenac Development north of Pittsburg and Castle Rock Casino Resort. The Frontenac casino would have been located at the site of the long-closed Camptown Greyhound Park, owned by billionaire Phil Ruffin Sr., a Wichita businessman and owner of Treasure Island in Las Vegas. Castle Rock developers proposed a large gambling hall and a 200-room hotel in Cherokee County, within 2 miles of the Quapaw Tribe’s Downstream Casino in northeast Oklahoma, compared to Kansas Crossing which will be located about 30 miles south of the Downstream. Quapaw Chairman John Berrey had said, “I have $20 million to fight in court anyone who does business in my backyard.”

Downstream is located in Oklahoma, Kansas and Missouri, however gaming only is allowed in the Oklahoma section, which is federal trust land. The Quapaws want to expand gambling by building on its parking lot, located just across the state line in Kansas, which also is federal trust land. However, the Kansas Attorney General’s office is suing the tribe to prevent that.