Archive for Thursday, March 18, 2004

Indian tribe finds new prospect

Delaware Tribe plans to build casino east of Basehor

March 18, 2004

An Indian tribe the city of Basehor rejected three years ago for a proposed casino, apparently has found a neighboring city more friendly.

This week, the Delaware Tribe of Indians, headquartered in Bartlesville, Okla., have announced plans to own and operate a world-class destination resort hotel and casino in Bonner Springs.

In 2001, the tribe met with officials from various municipalities in Leavenworth County including Basehor. Members of the Basehor City Council considered the tribe's proposal for a possible hotel and casino along U.S. Highway 24/40.

Later, after hearing residents voice their opposition to gaming in Basehor, the City Council unanimously decided to pass on the project.

The Delaware Tribe met with similar resistance in Tonganoxie, Leavenworth and Lawrence.

Residents in Tonganoxie circulated a petition against the casino, and in Lawrence, residents were less than enthusiastic about a proposal for a location near the Lawrence Memorial Airport.

If the Bonner Springs project moves forward, it would create more than 2,000 new jobs at a $225 million location adjacent to the Kansas Speedway in the northeastern corner of the city.

Bonner Springs mayor Clausie Smith said the proposal would be the biggest development in the history of Bonner Springs. He also said the project is appropriate for Bonner Springs since the Delaware Tribe was instrumental in founding the community.

"We are personally very happy and excited the Delaware Tribe decided to return home," Smith said.

The city plans to host public forums for the tribe to make presentations and answer questions. The forums, as of yet, are unscheduled but anticipated to take place in coming weeks.

Because the Kansas constitution generally prohibits gaming, without a constitutional amendment, casinos can only exist if they are state owned, or operated by Indian tribes.

The Bonner Springs-Delaware Tribe marriage has several hurdles to overcome before tying the knot.

The tribe has filed an application with the Bureau of Indian Affairs to place the land in Bonner Springs in trust while the process of purchasing the property is completed. The tribe must also negotiate an agreement with Bonner Springs and Wyandotte County for services and obtain the necessary approval from state and federal governments.

Wyandotte County may well prove a more welcoming destination than Leavenworth or Douglas counties were three years ago.

In 1996, 82 percent of Wyandotte County voters said they would support gaming in Kansas during a non-binding referendum.

State officials have also lent support for gaming on this side of the state line, specifically in Wyandotte County.

A state panel, commissioned by Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, determined the state loses millions in revenue each year to Missouri, where riverboat casinos are legal. The committee also determined the benefits of gaming outweigh its costs and that the state should expand gaming in a limited fashion.

Staff writer Caroline Boyer contributed to this report.

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