Archive for Thursday, October 21, 2004

State accord casts doubt on casino plans

October 21, 2004

Two separate groups took formal steps Monday to bring casino gaming to Wyandotte County near the Kansas Speedway.

The two casinos would be similar in scope and stature but the plans and details vary greatly. One project has Governor Kathleen Sebelius' blessing while the other has the support of Bonner Springs Mayor Clausie Smith.

On Monday, the Delaware Tribe of Indians and the Gillmann Group announced they are filing a land into trust application with the Bureau of Indian Affairs. The tribe and the Gillmann group, a Las Vegas-based developer of resort casinos, seek to bring a $250 million casino to an 80-acre plot of land on Speedway Boulevard in Bonner Springs. The group said it has secured financing to purchase the land and implement the first phase of the three-phase project.

"Putting land into trust is a major step in getting the project in line to be approved, do the construction and open," said Jack Taylor, a spokesman for the group and tribe.

However, Sebelius announced Monday she had negotiated a different gaming compact with the Sac and Fox and Kickapoo tribes that would effectively kill the Delaware project if it is approved. Matt All, chief counsel to the governor, said the governor agreed to a compact that would bring a $200 million state-regulated casino to Kansas City, Kan. All said governor approved the deal because the State Gaming Agency will control the casino and because the two tribes are "Kansas tribes." He said the governor will not, at this point, negotiate with tribes from Oklahoma, where the Delaware Tribe is based. The deal also entails an exclusivity clause that would prevent competition within 100 miles of the casino site.

Fred Gillmann, president and CEO of the Gillmann Group, expressed concern over the exclusivity clause.

"The Gillmann Group and the Delaware Tribe has never opposed the plans of other tribal entities to develop and build resort destinations in Wyandotte County," he said in a written statement Monday. "But, we are disappointed today in the announcement that the compact with the Sac and Fox and Kickapoo, if approved by the Legislature, will include a 100-mile market protection clause from competition."

Smith will be in Topeka this afternoon to argue against the exclusivity clause, in hopes that lawmakers will leave the door open for the Delaware Tribe/Gillmann Group project.

"I have always been a great supporter of the Gillmann Group and Delaware Tribe," he said. "It would be a tremendous benefit to the Bonner Springs community and USD 204."

Smith said the city does not oppose bringing a Sac and Fox/Kickapoo casino to the county, but takes issue with the exclusivity clause. He believes the area can support two casinos that could thrive in healthy competition with the riverboat casinos in Missouri.

The Delaware is a landless tribe that was kicked off a reservation in present day Wyandotte County by the U.S. government about 150 years ago.

Sen. Chris Steineger, a Democrat who represents Kansas City, Kan., and Edwardsville, said the Sac and Fox/Kickapoo proposal is "95 percent right on." He also opposed the exclusivity clause.

"I believe in the spirit of competition and don't like monopolies," he said.

Steineger said the legislature can still fight to remove the exclusivity clause.

Rep. Ray Cox, R-Bonner Springs, said he does not like the exclusivity clause because it will kill the Delaware project.

"I would love to have the Delaware here," he said. "It would help Bonner Springs."

He said he will still vote in favor of the Sac and Fox/Kickapoo proposal as it stands now.

Both casino projects would create as many as 2,000 jobs apiece and send millions of dollars to the state. The revenue sharing plan for the Sac and Fox/Kickapoo project estimated the state would receive $40-$50 million. The Delaware Tribe's proposal would sent $30 million to the state in its first year and an additional $11 million to be divided among local governments, including Bonner Springs.

In order to proceed, the Delaware Tribe will need to secure the land in trust agreement and negotiate a compact with the governor, which appears unlikely unless the Sac and Fox agreement is amended. The Sac and Fox proposal will still need to be approved by the state legislature and the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs. The Delaware Tribe would also need to gain both approvals if the developers and tribe were to reach a compact agreement with the governor.

Representatives from the Gillmann group said they will continue to move ahead with their project and will be ready to "fill the void" if the Sac and Fox Kickapoo tribes' project meets with resistance from the B.I.A.

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