Tonganoxie places casino on hold
By Caroline Trowbridge, Special to the Chieftain-Sentinel
Tonganoxie City Council members, originally poised to discuss the merits of a casino Monday night, instead tabled the issue indefinitely.
During the council's regular meeting, Mayor John Franiuk asked council members to delay any discussion of the casino issue. He said the request came from Michael Pace, economic development director for the Delaware Tribe of Indians.
The Delawares are targeting two possible sites in Leavenworth County for a casino, hotel, gift shop, smoke shop and, possibly, museum.
The tribe is focusing on two tracts of land in southern Leavenworth County: one parcel about three miles east of Tonganoxie, on the north side of U.S. Highway 24-40, and another along Kansas Highway 7, just north of 24-40 highway.
Franiuk said he received a call from Pace after last week's public hearing on the casino issue. The city council was scheduled Monday night to consider a resolution supporting the Delaware's proposal. The resolution said that in return for the city's support and to compensate the city for taking the land and development off the tax rolls the city wants a percentage of revenues generated by the Delaware development.
The public hearing last week attracted nearly 125 people, and roughly one-fifth of them spoke against the tribe's plans for a casino, citing the social and moral costs associated with gambling.
Only two people said they thought a casino would be a benefit to Tonganoxie and Southern Leavenworth County.
After the public hearing, Pace said the views expressed were about what he had anticipated.
"It was nothing that I didn't expect," he said following the tw-and-a-half hour meeting. "But exceptions don't make the rule. Most of what they said did not apply to Indian gaming facilities."
The tribe is seeking support from the city of Tonganoxie, as well as Leavenworth County, township boards and the city of Basehor, as tribal members begin to wind their way through the lengthy process of establishing a casino.
The Delaware tribe now is based in Bartlesville, Okla., but is hoping to purchase some of the land in Leavenworth County that the tribe had owned for about 30 years in the mid-1800s. But before a casino can be constructed, the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs must agree to place any land in trust, and the tribe must obtain permission from the Kansas Legislature, as well as the governor.
Delaware tribe members have said they would share some of the revenue generated by the $35 million to $40 million project that they say will generate between 400 and 800 new jobs.
Despite Pace's contention that the tribe's presence in Southern Leavenworth County would be a benefit to Tonganoxie, many in the audience Tuesday night disagreed.
"Even if you never gamble, you'll feel the effects of gambling," said Tonganoxie resident Ed O'Brien, who with his wife, Connie, has circulated petitions against the casino. The petitions have been forwarded to Gov. Bill Graves.
O'Brien urged elected officials to "resist the temptation for the fast bucks. Let's not gamble with the futures of our communities."