Conservative Kansas No More: Jayhawkers to Run Gambling Business at State-Run Casino

A few years ago there was the best selling book called “What’s the Matter with Kansas?” It was about politics.

But for those who love to gamble, it could have been written about them as well. Kansas by tradition, is conservative country. The state school board once approved science guidelines questioning evolution and anti-abortion leaders have made their stiffest stands within the statelines.

Now Kansas is poised to get into the Casino business. But here is the twist. They plan to become the legal owner of the casinos, not merely taxing the profits of others who own casinos. If this works out, Kansas (we think) will be the only state with such an arrangement. [Kansas already has four Native American reservations, with one set to open in December in Dodge City.] And why is this happening. Kansas needs the money.

Lawmakers in recent months have slashed money for schools and other state services, and the current state budget relies on $50 million in casino licensing fees to remain balanced. “It’s terribly ironic, and disappointingly so. I never dreamed that Kansas would be the first to try this experiment,” said House Speaker Mike O’Neal, a Hutchinson Republican who fought unsuccessfully to block the 2007 law authorizing the new casinos and slot machines at racetracks.

Developers will build the casinos, install slot machines, set up tables and manage dealers, all under contract with the state lottery. They pay upfront privilege fees: $5.5 million for Dodge City and $25 million each for casinos planned in the Kansas City and Wichita areas.

The state will own the games and control software determining who wins and may overrule management decisions. Contracts spell out how revenues are divided. The state hopes to choose developers for casinos for the Kansas City and Wichita areas before year’s end. The Dodge City casino plans to open with 575 slots and 10 tables, then expand within two years.

More news on our casino moments website as the story develops

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