Archive for Monday, March 26, 2007

Kansas House approves expanded gambling bill

March 26, 2007

— Kansas moved a step closer to a major increase in legal gambling as the House on Monday approved a bill that would allow top-tier casinos and slot machines at racetracks.

The measure was sent to the Senate on a 64-58 vote. A close vote is expected in the Senate.

The proposal calls for state-owned but privately operated casinos in Wyandotte County, either Sedgwick or Sumner counties in south-central Kansas, and either Crawford or Cherokee counties in southeast Kansas. It also would allow 2,200 slot machines distributed among three pari-mutuel racetracks, the Woodlands in Kansas City, Kan., Wichita Greyhound Park and the now-closed Camptown Greyhound Park in Frontenac.

Gambling proponents said the state could eventually receive $200 million per year from the casinos and tracks, providing needed revenue as government costs escalate while lawmakers refuse to increase taxes.

But opponents said the increased gambling would come with a large societal cost through more problem gamblers, leading to bankruptcies and broken families.

Nearly two dozen lawmakers spoke against the proposal on Monday.

"We have gone to the dark side," said Rep. Don Dahl, R-Hillsboro.

"The (gambling) industry is treating Kansas the way it does problem gamblers. It is promising us to be winners. It is handing us cash as we enter the door," said Rep. Forest Knox, R-Altoona.

The vote on Monday came after more than a dozen hours of debate on Friday and Saturday.

Kansas already has a state lottery and four Native American casinos operate in the northeast Kansas, but the state receives no revenue from those casinos.

Even lawmakers not especially in favor of gambling said the state was losing out on revenue from increased gambling operations in Missouri and Oklahoma.

Senate President Steve Morris, R-Hugoton, said the bill's prospects in the Senate were unknown at this time.

"We need to evaluate what's in the bill. We need to see where we are with the votes before we could really proceed," Morris said.

The bill to expand gambling in Kansas was approved by the House on a 64-58 vote. Here's how the Leavenworth County delegation voted:

Yes

Kenny Wilk, R-Lansing

Candy Ruff, D-Leavenworth

Not voting

Marti Crow, D-Leavenworth

Read more legislative news in The Mirror on Wednesday

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