Kansas House Takes a Chance on Destination Casinos
This past Monday, the Kansas House approved a destination-based casino gaming bill, Senate Bill 66, on Final Action by a vote of 64-58. Passage of the bill followed a rather lengthy (and sometimes heated) debate that focused on such issues as state-owned casinos, the financial devastation associated with gambling addiction, and the percentage of revenue to be received by the state. I voted for the bill.
This is a most serious issue with significant consequences for our state and its citizens. If casinos were not already operating both within Kansas and on its borders, I would be voting “No” against any bill introducing casino gambling in Kansas as I believe the resulting fallout on human lives is not worth it. But given the fact that these businesses ARE already here, this bill offers the state a very practical approach for securing much-needed revenues with little additional downside risk to its citizens. These monies can then be put towards property tax relief, Regents universities building maintenance projects and vital state services. And in a state where any type of tax increase is generally hated, that’s important.
Bill background: Senate Bill 66, as passed by the House, would create four gaming zones (Wyandotte County, Crawford / Cherokee Counties, Sedgwick / Sumner counties, and Ford County). The Kansas Lottery would be responsible for considering and approving proposed gaming facilities management contracts for establishing destination-based casinos in these zones. An approved casino contract would then be submitted to the proposed host county’s voters for their approval or disapproval. If approved, the state would receive up front a gaming privilege fee of $25,000,000 for each non-Ford County site approval and a privilege fee of $5,500,000 for a Ford County site approval. The state would also receive not less than 22 percent of the gaming revenues to the state. The Kansas Lottery would also be responsible for considering and approving proposed racetrack gaming contracts for the state’s three horse and greyhound pari-mutuel race tracks. A maximum of 2,200 slot machines would be allowed at all locations. The state would receive up front $2,500 for each slot machine as well as 40% of all race track slot revenues. The state could eventually receive up to $200 million annually from the casinos and race tracks. Also, an additional 2% of the revenues (approximately $17 million) would be set aside for the Problem Gambling and Addictions Fund. This fund would be used for treating gambling addiction, alcoholism, and other addictive behaviors.
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