Archive for Thursday, June 18, 2009

Unified Government endorses two county casino proposals

June 18, 2009

Two casino proposals got one step closer Thursday to managing a state-owned and operated facility in Wyandotte County as the Unified Government’s Board of Commissioners gave their endorsement to each.

The endorsement was required for the proposals to move forward to the Kansas Lottery Gaming Facility Review Board, a panel that will eventually pick the winner. As far as District 7 commissioner and Bonner Springs representative Tom Cooley is concerned, endorsing both the Hard Rock and Penn National proposals was the best way to ensure that Wyandotte County got a casino at all.

“My position is that neither one of them appeared to overwhelmingly standout over the other one. Both had good points and both had bad points,” Cooley said. “You’re not going to catch any fish unless you put your line in the water, and you have a better chance of catching one with two lines in the water.”

Cooley said he felt the board should endorse both proposals because both had met the guidelines set up in the Request For Proposal and there was not a compelling reason to support one over the other. He added that if only one proposal had been endorsed, and for some reason that group wasn’t able to come to an agreement with the state, Wyandotte County would be back to square one.

The endorsements were delayed a week when commissioners could not come to an agreement at the June 4 meeting. Both casino groups were asked to make changes to its proposal before the June 11 meeting.

The first group was Kansas Entertainment LLC, who will manage a Hard Rock casino overlooking Turn 2 at the Kansas Speedway in Kansas City, Kan. The proposal calls for $390 million-worth of development that would include a 100,000 square foot casino.

Jeff Boerger, president of the Kansas Speedway, said we was relieved his group received an endorsement.

“We are very happy with the decision,” Boerger said. “We believe we have the strongest proposal.”

Commissioners had asked the Hard Rock group to reassure the county that in addition to the phase one casino construction, a hotel would follow shortly. As a result, the group came back with a commitment to build the hotel within two years of the casino being built and put a penalty on themselves to pay 1 percent of their adjusted gross revenue for every year the hotel is not built.

The second proposal is Hollywood Casino Kansas, submitted by Penn Hollywood Kansas Inc., a subsidiary of Penn National Gaming Inc. This proposal calls for a $500 million casino to be built near the future Schlitterbahn Vacation Village off Interstate 435 in Kansas City, Kan.

“We were very pleased to receive an endorsement from the (Unified Government) and to move on in the process and to present our case at the state level,” said Eric Schippers, a Penn spokesperson.

Commissioners had asked the Penn group to increase its charitable givings before an endorsement would be made. Schippers said his group responded by agreeing to give 2 percent of the casino net income, and no less than $270,000, to Wyandotte County charities


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