Group against bringing casino to the county
A loosely organized group of Tonganoxie area residents has formed to oppose construction of a casino in Leavenworth County.
"I think that, economically, it could be devastating to Tonganoxie," said Connie O'Brien, county chairwoman for Stand Up For Leavenworth County.
"When casinos come in, other businesses won't survive because when people come into town, they will spend their money there."
In addition, O'Brien and her husband, Ed, are concerned about the effects that easy access to gambling would have on families.
"It affects everybody, not just the person who gambles," she said. "It affects the whole family. It becomes an addiction."
The Delaware Tribe of Indians, based in northeast Oklahoma, have been shopping in Leavenworth County for a site to construct a casino. They also have been talking with county officials, and officials in Basehor and Tonganoxie, in an effort to gain support for the project.
O'Brien said she and others are circulating petitions against the casino. They plan to be in downtown Tonganoxie this Saturday and during the St. Patrick's Day Parade on the following Saturday.
She said she plans to ask state Sen. Bob Lyon, R-Winchester, to hand-deliver signed petitions to Gov. Bill Graves. Copies will be sent to Tonganoxie City Council members, Leavenworth County commissioners, as well as local legislators.
O'Brien, a 23-year Tonganoxie resident, said she opposes a casino anywhere in Leavenworth County.
She said one study said that 50 percent of gambling revenue at a casino would come from within 25 miles.
"That's not going to come from outside our area," she said. "It's going to come directly from our area."
She worries about potential fallout, including less money for churches, housing and local businesses. In addition, she thinks crime and gambling addictions among young people would increase.
"There will be one of the few businesses that thrive pawn shops," she said.
She doesn't view gambling as harmless entertainment that would benefit the area. And she thinks it would have a negative effect on growth.
"Would a family really want to live in an area where a casino's really close," she said.
The Rev. Rick Lamb, one local minister who's signed the petition, preached on "Why Gambling is a Bad Bet" last Sunday morning at West Haven Baptist Church.
He said he has practical, as well as theological, reasons for his opposition to a casino. During time in New Mexico and in the Four Corners region where Utah, New Mexico, Arizona and Colorado meet Lamb viewed Indian gaming first-hand.
"I saw that it never benefited the Indians," he said. "It helped the bureaucracy. It helped the people who backed them. But it really never helped them. I think in a small town like Tonganoxie, it would overwhelm us."
Like O'Brien, Lamb opposes a casino at any site in Leavenworth County. And many of his parishioners agree.
"I think most of them are upset and don't want to see it happen," he said. "I don't speak for them. But I hear quite a few say they don't' want it as well. I'm not saying you're going to hell (by gambling), but I think it's a bad thing."