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2 Kansas casino proposals advance; 2 delayed

TOPEKA, Kan. – The Kansas Lottery Commission endorsed two competing plans Aug. 19 for a new state-owned casino in the Kansas City area but delayed action on a pair of proposals for a casino south of Wichita.

The commission approved proposed contracts for Wyandotte County for a project backed by Penn National Gaming Inc., of Wyomissing, Pa., and another from a partnership involving Kansas Speedway, the NASCAR track in Kansas City. The panel’s unanimous votes forwarded the agreements to a state review board that is set to pick one applicant before the end of October.

The Lottery Commission has the power to block proposals from moving forward because, under the 2007 state law authorizing the casinos, the Lottery will own the rights to the new games. The arrangement is unique for non-tribal casinos in the U.S., but the Kansas Constitution does not allow privately owned casinos.

The commission postponed action on the two proposals for Sumner County in south-central Kansas so the Lottery’s staff had more time to review financial information for a group of developers behind one of them.

Foxwoods Development Co., of St. Louis, originally had a proposal competing with another from a partnership involving Kansas investors and two former executives of Las Vegas-based Mandalay Resort Group. But Lottery officials said Aug. 17 that they’d combined forces to push only the Foxwoods plan.

“We just got some additional financial information,” said Ed Van Petten, the Lottery’s executive director.

A proposal from Lakes Entertainment Inc., of Minnetonka, Minn., is competing with the Foxwoods plan.

Last year, the casino review board picked a partnership involving Harrah’s Entertainment Inc., to build a casino in Sumner County. But it dropped its plans in November because of the economy, forcing the state to restart the selection process.

Meanwhile, the Kansas City area is considered Kansas’ best casino market, though four casinos already are operating on the Missouri side. Kansas officials hope to draw business away from them and tourists from outside the metro area.

Last year, the Kansas casino review board also picked the Speedway-backed partnership to build a $680 million hotel-and-casino complex overlooking the track’s No. 2 turn. But the partnership backed away in December, saying it had to retool its plans because of the economy.

The new proposal for the speedway’s Hard Rock Hotel and Casino would cost $521 million.

“We’re anxious to get in front of the review board,” said Jeff Boerger, the speedway’s president. “We have a lot of respect for Penn. We believe we’re going to have a fight on our hands.”

Penn’s proposed Hollywood Casino would cost $539 million to build, with construction in two phases, like the speedway plan. Penn’s site, about two miles north of the junction of Interstates 70 and 435, is near the speedway.

A Penn spokesman did not return telephone messages Aug. 19.

Like the speedway partnership, Penn has won a contract in Kansas before, for a casino in the state’s southeast corner.

But Penn abandoned its project there in September, two months after the Quapaw Tribe opened a casino just across the Oklahoma border. No new applicants have come forward.

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