Archive for Thursday, March 25, 2004

City would be apprehensive about gaming in Basehor

Casinos still not a good fit, City Council member says

March 25, 2004

One of the few Basehor City Council members in office three years ago when an Indian tribe proposed building a casino in Basehor said he still considers a Basehor-casino marriage a bad fit.

Three years ago, in 2001, the city met with representatives of the Delaware Tribe, who were considering Basehor as a location for a casino. Each member of the City Council said at the time they would not be in favor of the proposed business.

Time hasn't changed the minds of at least one of the City Council members in office in 2001.

"I'm no different than a lot of people," council president Julian Espinoza said. "I go to the casinos, but I don't think I would like it if it were here. I've always thought of Basehor as a family type of town, a bedroom community. I don't think a casino would fit that environment."

Last week, the Delaware Tribe, headquartered in Bartlesville, Okla., announced plans to own and operate a world-class destination resort and hotel casino in western Wyandotte County, just a few miles east of Basehor. If approved, the casino would be located in the Bonner Springs city limits.

Delaware Tribe representatives said the $225 million casino would create more than 2,000 new jobs.

The Delaware project isn't the only casino-gaming project in the works in Wyandotte County. Unified Government of Wyandotte County is continuing negotiations with the Kickapoo and Sac and Fox tribes for a casino across from the Delaware project, on the Kansas City, Kan., side.

Both would be located near the Village West tourist and entertainment district.

Basehor mayor Joseph Scherer, who also sat on the City Council in 2001 when the Delaware met with city officials, said the City Council would consider "any viable business interested in coming to the city."

With gaming possibly locating just outside the city's front door, the mayor said the city would listen to any proposal that might be made in the future; however, he could make no promises that gaming would receive support in Basehor.

The Delaware casino is far from a sure bet, said Don Denney, Unified Government of Wyandotte County spokesman.

"We have to curb some of our enthusiasm because there are still hoops to go through," he said. "It's a very painfully slow process. It requires a great deal of patience and understanding."

Because the Delaware Tribe is considered a non-Kansas tribe, the Kansas Legislature must approve the deal. State officials have previously said they are hesitant to negotiate with non-Kansas tribes seeking to build casinos.

Denney said it's doubtful the legislature would discuss the Delaware Tribe this legislative session.

Although the process is slow, Unified Government is encouraged by the possibility of new businesses locating to the county. The county supports Bonner Springs' bid to land the Delaware Tribe casino, he said.

"We have always supported the Delaware Tribe and always wanted them to be a part of Wyandotte County," he said.

The city's negotiations with the Delaware do not mean that Wyandotte County negotiations with the Kickapoo and Sac and Fox tribes will come to a halt. In an ideal world, Wyandotte County would be home to both, Denney said.

"The people of Wyandotte County deserve a first-class, destination casino," Denney said, "and we certainly believe there is room for more than one."

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