Woodlands to close racing doors

Greyhounds nudge each other for position as they tear around the track during a late-afternoon race at The Woodlands in Kansas City, Kan. Owners of The Woodlands say they will close the track for good on Aug. 24. Enlarge photo

July 24, 2008

49News video: Woodlands to close

Adobe Flash player 9 is required to view this video
Get Adobe Flash player

Ed Van Petten, executive director of the Kansas Lottery, discusses the announced closing of The Woodlands race track. Enlarge video

Wyandotte County got hit with two loads of bad business news this week, and both had to do with gambling.

On Monday, Kansas Racing LLC announced it would be closing the Woodlands Race Park on Aug. 24. The following night Sands Las Vegas announced it was dropping its pursuit of a casino proposal in Edwardsville.

The Woodlands had been cleared to install up to 800 slot machines under the state's expanded lottery law that also provided for four state-owned casinos to be built.

Unified Government of Wyandotte County/Kansas City, Kan., Mayor Joe Reardon said the Woodlands announcement was bad news but he was hopeful an alternative to the track's shuttering could be found to avert the loss of more than 200 jobs.

"Our citizens voted overwhelmingly to allow slot machines at the Woodlands. Our community has fought for more than 15 years for this to become a reality. We believed those steps would lead to a Woodlands that would be on a strong financial footing," Reardon said. "I am hopeful that within the next 60 days The Woodlands and the Lottery Commission can craft an agreement that makes good business sense for both and is beneficial to the taxpayers of Kansas and the citizens of Wyandotte County."

Mike Deines, a spokesman for the Kansas Racing and Gaming Commission, said it was possible that another site could be permitted to have the same number of slot machines that were authorized for the Woodlands.

"A lot of things would have to happen first," Deines said, adding that if the Woodlands were to be sold and the new owner wanted to operate slot machines, a new license would be needed.

Sands' decision was made, said Las Vegas Sands president William Weidner in a press release, after "a thorough evaluation of the impact of proposed statutory changes in the neighboring Missouri gaming marketplace."

The statutory changes Weidner cited would repeal the Missouri law the current $500 loss limit for gamblers in casinos.

In addition to legislative changes across the state line, current economic realities spurred Sands' decision, Weidner said, including opening up the commission's licensing process.

Together with the proposed change in Missouri law, Weidner said, "the increased borrowing costs in today's financial marketplace significantly decreases the expected returns from our proposed development in Kansas and limits our ability to generate appropriate risk-adjusted returns on the proposed investment vis-Ã -vis our expected returns on our other global investment opportunities," he said.

Sands' pulling out leaves four casino proposals set to be considered by the Kansas Lottery's Gaming and Facility Review Board before picking one for the northeast zone of the state. In addition to three in Kansas City, Kan., Edwardsville is the site of a proposal by Golden Gaming for a casino and resort project on 200 acres immediately south and adjacent to Interstate 70 at 110th Street, straddling the Bonner Springs and Edwardsville boundary.

"We're disappointed that they (Sands) had to make this decision and they're not going to have the opportunity to have a part in one of the best development corridors," said Edwardsville City Administrator Mike Webb, referring to Interstate 70 near 110th Street. "I remain confident in the remaining site selection, and with our association with Golden Gaming, and I look forward in presenting our case to the gaming facility review board."

Unified Government of Wyandotte County/Kansas City, Kan., spokesman Mike Taylor said he figured the temporal proximity of the Woodlands and Sands announcements was coincidental.

"I was surprised," Taylor said, but "this in no way detracts from Wyandotte County's chance to have a world-class casino resort. We still have four casino proposals" before the state's gaming facility review board of the Kansas Lottery.

The gaming facility review board will hear presentations on the Wyandotte County casino proposals Aug. 13-15, at the Kansas City, Kan., Community College Theater, 7250 State Ave. Public comments will be taken Aug. 15, beginning after lunch or after the final presentation, and will be limited to two minutes each. The board is scheduled to vote on the proposals Sept. 18 and 19, in Topeka.

Originally published at: