Kansas to revise plans for Wichita area casino

AP News
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Posted: Dec 02, 2009 7:48 PM

A proposal for a state-owned casino near Wichita has been put on hold while the developers revise their proposal to better compete should an Indian tribe open a casino nearby.

Developers had been seeking a state contract to build and operate a $225 million casino complex about 20 miles south of Wichita. But that plan was on hold Wednesday, because an earlier conference call between the developers, the Kansas Lottery Gaming Facility Review Board and others raised concerns about the Wyandotte Nation's long-standing plans for a casino north of the city.

The developers' partnership, Chisholm Creek, asked the review board Tuesday to postpone its decision on the project, and the board agreed.

Meanwhile, Doug Spangler, a lobbyist for the Wyandotte Nation, said the tribe doesn't oppose the state's proposal and will continue to pursue its plans, regardless of what the state does.

"We wish that they would go ahead and build," said Spangler, a former Kansas House member. "We have no objection to it at all."

The northeast Oklahoma tribe bought 10 acres of land in Park City, Kan., in 1992 and has been waiting for more than a decade for U.S. Interior Department officials to agree to gambling there.

The Wyandotte Nation already has a casino with limited gambling in downtown Kansas City, Kan., and four other tribes operate casinos in northeast Kansas with Las Vegas-style gambling.

Those casinos all operate under federal law. A 2007 state law gives the Kansas Lottery authority to hire private developers to build and operate state-owned casinos.

But after two years of discussions among state officials and potential developers, Chisholm Creek is the only remaining bidder for a single Wichita-area contract. The state casino would be in Sumner County because Sedgwick County voters rejected the idea.

Chisholm Creek had planned to open its casino in September 2011, with at least 1,300 slot machines and 30 tables for games such as poker and blackjack. Nicholas Hecker, a Chisholm Creek representative, said it may now try to open sooner with a larger gambling floor.

But Chisholm Creek and Kansas Lottery officials must agree on changes to the proposal, which the review board still must approve.

Spangler said the Wyandottes don't know how soon they could build a casino. They've been waiting for federal approval since 1996, and last year, Kansas Attorney General Steve Six's office sent a letter asking the federal agency to reject the tribe's application.

Six's office noted that the tribe's headquarters is 270 miles southeast of Park City, while federal law prefers casinos on or near reservation land.

Interior Department approval would allow the same limited gambling available at the Wyandotte casino in Kansas City. The tribe would have to negotiate a compact with the state for full, Las Vegas-style gambling.

Chisholm Creek's partners include Lakes Entertainment Inc., of Minnetonka, Minn., which has been involved in 11 Indian casinos in seven states. Others are Clairvest Group Inc., a Toronto merchant bank, and Och-Ziff Real Estate Acquisitions, based in New York.

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On the Net:

Kansas Lottery: http://www.kslottery.com

Chisholm Creek: http://www.chisholmcreekcasinoresort.com/

Wyandotte Nation: http://www.wyandotte-nation.org/