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Kan. lawmakers to see another push on gambling

Published on -4/26/2012, 4:40 PM

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TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) -- A Kansas Senate committee sponsored a measure Thursday that's designed to bring a casino to southeast Kansas and slot machines to dog and horse tracks.

Sen. Pete Brungardt, a Salina Republican and committee chairman, offered the measure in the Senate Federal and State Affairs as a late-session push for the gambling legislation. The bill must be read into the record in the full Senate before the committee can work the issue.

A 2007 state law allows slots at now-closed tracks in Kansas City, Wichita and outside Pittsburg, as well as a state-owned casino in southeast Kansas.

Gambling supporters say the law's financial requirements are too strict for a southeast Kansas casino or slots at the tracks to be economically feasible. The committee's bill would change the requirements, lowering the state's share of revenues from 40 percent to 22 percent of the profits. The remaining would be shared by local governments, horse and dog breeders and the manager of the casino.

Rep. Bob Grant, a Frontenac Democrat, said supporters were "trying a new tactic" to leverage the bill and move it forward.

"We're trying to get away from the gambling aspect. We already have gambling, so we're tweaking it," he said.

Backers of Grant's proposal say it's an issue of rural economic growth. They're touting the jobs the measure would create in southeast Kansas with the building and operation of the casino. They also point to growth in the Kansas horse and dog breeding industry that they say would result from the bill.

But such efforts have found little support in the past.

Grant and Rep. Doug Gatewood, a Columbus Democrat, tried in late March to force the House to debate the same gambling bill that has been stuck in committee, falling well short of the 70 votes needed.

House Speaker Mike O'Neal has balked at reopening gambling statutes to adjust the percentages dividing up revenues.

"No interest in that," the Hutchinson Republican said Thursday. "They got what they wanted."

The 2007 law allowed for four casino zones in Kansas and slot machines at the racetracks. The bill was written largely by the gambling lobby and supporters in the Legislature and was a compromise on how to divide the revenues after years of failure over which entity would get the bigger take.

Gov. Sam Brownback didn't indicate whether he would veto any measure that might reach his desk, but he said there are other issues that deserve immediate attention.

"I really wanted them to wait for another year, because they just are such politically potent issues," Brownback said Thursday, referring to the proposals for a southeast Kansas casino and slot machines at tracks.

Kansas has three state-owned casinos operating in Dodge City, Mulvane and Kansas City, Kan. Revenues generated for the state must be used for property tax reduction, state building construction and maintenance, and reducing bonded indebtedness.

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