The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

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May 1, 2012

Kansas lawmakers try hand at Kansas casino bill again

FRONTENAC, Kan. — Yet another effort is in the works in the state Legislature to bring to a vote a bill that would make it easier to open a casino and reopen a dog track in Southeast Kansas.

Last week, Sen. Pete Brungardt, R-Salina, offered the measure in the Senate Federal and State Affairs Committee, which he chairs.

Rep. Bob Grant, D-Frontenac, and Rep. Doug Gatewood, D-Columbus, are the main sponsors of the bill. It would reduce the minimum investment required for managers of state-owned casinos in Cherokee or Crawford counties from $225 million to $100 million, and reduce a required “privilege fee” from $25 million to $11 million.

It also would reduce the state’s share of slot machine revenues at Camptown Dog Track in Frontenac from 40 percent to 22 percent.

The new effort comes after an effort to vote the bill out of the committee fell 20 votes short last month.

Grant has said he will keep trying to get the bill passed until the session ends. He said it may be a long shot, but it shouldn’t be, because the bill would provide jobs.

“All we’re trying to do is make the casino and Camptown viable,” Grant said.

He acknowledged that time in the session is running short.

“I know we’re here this week and probably next week,” he said. “I don’t think we’re going to get everything done.”

House Speaker Mike O’Neal, R-Hutchinson, has resisted changing the state gambling law.

Gov. Sam Brownback didn’t indicate whether he would veto the measure if it were to gain legislative approval.

“I really wanted them to wait for another year, because they just are such politically potent issues,” Brownback said last week.

Grant said the gambling bill may not be important to Brownback, but it is important to his and Gatewood’s constituents, and to the Southeast Kansas economy.

“We’re touting jobs,” Gatewood said. “That’s what the Brownback administration has been touting. I’m hoping it provides lots of jobs. We’ll make it work like Dodge City, Mulvane and Kansas City have done. Hopefully it will provide jobs, jobs, jobs.”

Gatewood said the next step would be debate in the committee, which must vote the bill onto the Senate floor.

“The only way I see it happening is to insert the Senate bill into a House bill that deals with the same subject, and vote it out of the Senate,” Gatewood said.

He said that in the House, he or any other member can make a motion to concur; approval of such a motion would prevent the bill from being amended.

“That’s the most we can get done,” Gatewood said. “I don’t think it would get a fair hearing in the House, but there are procedural moves we can take.

“It’s the only chance we’re going to have.”

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS contributed to this report.

Revenue potential

OFFICIALS HAVE ESTIMATED that a casino and dog track with slot machines in Southeast Kansas would generate state revenue of $15.4 million annually by 2015.

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