Archive for Wednesday, April 25, 2001

City shelves Delawares’ casino plan

April 25, 2001

Tonganoxie City Council members, originally poised to discuss the merits of a casino Monday night, instead tabled the issue indefinitely.

During the council's regular meeting, Mayor John Franiuk asked council members to delay any discussion of the casino issue. He said the request came from Michael Pace, economic development director for the Delaware Tribe of Indians.

The Delawares are targeting two possible sites in Leavenworth County for a casino, hotel, gift shop, smoke shop and, possibly, museum.

The tribe is focusing on two tracts of land in southern Leavenworth County: one parcel about three miles east of Tonganoxie, on the north side of U.S. Highway 24-40, and another along Kansas Highway 7, just north of 24-40 highway.

Franiuk said he received a call from Pace after last week's public hearing on the casino issue. The city council was scheduled Monday night to consider a resolution supporting the Delaware's proposal. The resolution said that in return for the city's support and to compensate the city for taking the land and development off the tax rolls the city wants a percentage of revenues generated by the Delaware development.

The public hearing last week attracted nearly 125, and roughly one-fifth of them spoke against the tribe's plans for a casino, citing the social and moral costs associated with gambling.

Only two people said they thought a casino would be a benefit to Tonganoxie and Southern Leavenworth County.

After the public hearing, Pace said the views expressed were about what he had anticipated.

"It was nothing that I didn't expect," he said following the 2 1/2 hour meeting. "But exceptions don't make the rule. Most of what they said did not apply to Indian gaming facilities."

The tribe is seeking support from the city of Tonganoxie, as well as Leavenworth County, township boards and the city of Basehor, as tribal members begin to wind their way through the lengthy process of establishing a casino.

The Delaware tribe now is based in Bartlesville, Okla., but is hoping to purchase some of the land in Leavenworth County that the tribe had owned for about 30 years in the mid-1800s. But before a casino can be constructed, the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs must agree to place any land in trust, and the tribe must obtain permission from the Kansas Legislature, as well as the governor.

Delaware Tribe members have said they would share some of the revenue generated by the $35 million to $40 million project that they say will generate between 400 and 800 new jobs.

Despite Pace's contention that the tribe's presence in Southern Leavenworth County would be a benefit to Tonganoxie, many in the audience Tuesday night disagreed.

"Even if you never gamble, you'll feel the effects of gambling," said Tonganoxie resident Ed O'Brien, who with his wife, Connie, has circulated petitions against the casino. The petitions have been forwarded to Gov. Bill Graves.

O'Brien urged elected officials to "resist the temptation for the fast bucks. Let's not gamble with the futures of our communities."

State Sen. Bob Lyon, R-Winchester, said he opposes gambling at all levels. As an elected official, he said he would feel responsibility for introducing addictive behavior to his constituents.

"This isn't a destination casino, where people are coming from out of the area," he said.

He urged Tonganoxie residents to maintain the city's high quality of life by turning down the casino proposal.

"I can't imagine this community wanting to change its character for the hope of a few uncertain dollars," Lyon said.

Other speakers cited problems they say come hand-in-hand with casinos: increases in crime, suicides, domestic violence, family debt, divorce rates, addicted children and adults, drunken driving and accidents, and poverty.

"People will take their new homes and nice families some place else," said Mike Waggoner, pastor at Victory Bible Baptist Church.

And in the words of Tonganoxie resident Wayne Davidson, "It's just plain wrong. To say that gambling produces jobs is like saying the thief who breaks into a home is a self-employed businessman."

Richard Riedel, one of two people who spoke in favor of the casino, said he believed the development would create jobs. And Phyllis Shilling said she supports a casino.

"A casino is no different from any other form of entertainment," she said.

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