Archive for Wednesday, March 21, 2001

Delawares still pushing for casino

Representative for casino equipment company plans to attend meeting at THS

March 21, 2001

In recent weeks, the Delaware Indian tribe has been looking into the possibility of establishing an Indian gaming center in Leavenworth County.

Dee Ketchum, Bartlesville, Okla., is chief of the Delaware tribe which owned land in this area of the state in the early1800s. Ketchum said his tribal members are interested in returning to their roots and has recently looked at land near Tonganoxie and Basehor.

Chris Garcia, president of Basehor's city council, said that last week, representatives of the Delaware tribe returned to Basehor and looked at parcels of land.

Garcia said even if the tribe decided upon Basehor as a site for a casino, that's no sure bet it would happen.

"I think, and they'd be the first to admit, it's a long, drawn-out process," Garcia said. "You're looking at a minimum of a couple of years there's all the red tape they're going to have to go through to get this past the point they're at now."

Working behind the scenes with the tribe have been members of the Gillmann Group, a casino equipment and management company based in San Diego.

Fred Gillman said he plans to attend a Tonganoxie public meeting with Ketchum in April.

Chris Clark, city administrator, said the meeting will be held at 7 p.m. April 17 in the auditorium of Tonganoxie High School. From 7 p.m. to 8 p.m., tribal leaders will be welcome to speak, as well as economic development directors from North Kansas City, Mo., and Jackson County, Kan. At 8 p.m., the public will have an opportunity to speak.

Gillmann, 63, owner of the 8-year-old business that works primarily with Indian tribes, said his company at the present time is involved with five Indian gaming casinos, or entertainment centers, in California and three in Costa Rica. Also, Gillman said, his company will open a 12,000-square-foot facility east of Albuquerque this year. It will be a combined casino, hotel and truck destination for travelers on Interstate 40.

Gillmann said that when tribal members decide to enter the gaming business, they may not have the capital or knowledge to do it successfully.

And so they contact a company such as the Gillmann Group for the borrowing power, as well as to learn about the business.

"We train the members of the tribe," Gillmann said. "We get the casino up and running and for a five-year period we work with them, developing their skills and the management operation. And after that, they're on their own."

Gillmann, who is not a Native American, said he started in the business by running a route operation for a slot machine manufacturer in Reno, Nev. During his years with the company, he saw ways that casinos could make more money.

"It was my job to assist the casinos in revamping themselves to be more profitable with our machines," Gillmann said. "I saw a need in Indian country for professionals with years of experience to assist them in being successful."

His strategies have worked, he said.

"We've helped several be successful, very successful," Gillmann said. "We assisted the Barona tribe in San Diego by selling equipment and providing other help and now they're going around $180 million in dollar volume a year."

But like any other business, there's overhead.

"The overhead runs differently for everyone," Gillmann said. "I think they're in the $50-60 million bottom line."

If a casino were to go into Leavenworth County, Gillmann said the best location would be a large tract of land with highway access and no houses nearby. He estimates that a casino would create more than 800 jobs.

"And 70 percent will be entry level where they learn the industry and work their way up," he said.

He's estimating that a facility would include an entertainment center, which could consist of a 3,500-seat showroom for major entertainers, a bingo area with more than 1,000 seats and a casino.

"We think of this as a destination entertainment center," Gillmann said. "Gaming is a part of it, but we offer all these other things."

Gillmann estimated that the above construction and set up would cost about $40 million.

He said the group had not yet budgeted for a hotel, but said if that came up, he would guess that a hotel would cost about $30 million.

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