(TOPEKA, Kan.) — Money is the number one thing the Lottery Review Board looked at when considering a casino for Sumner County. Wednesday in a six to one vote, review board members chose a Mulvane casino, the Kansas Star casino by Peninsula Gaming.
Review board chairman Matt All says it was a tough decision because both proposals were well done and would have benefited Sumner County. But the review board was designed by lawmakers to consider three things, revenue, tourism and what is in the best interest of Kansas. Board member Jack Brier says unfortunately what's in the best interest of the state is not in the best interest of Sumner County.
Global Gaming proposed the WinSpirit Casino at the Wellington exit of the turnpike. Board members say they had to rely on the research showing a casino at Wellington would generate less money than a casino at Mulvane. One report says that when all of the phases are complete, the Kansas Star would make $53 million more a year than the WinSpirit. All says bottom line, the Kansas Lottery negotiated a better contract with Kansas Star. He says the state gets a better cut and the facility will be up and running sooner. He says those are things he could not ignore.
Those who supported the WinSpirit casino say they can't ignore the review boards decision. Sumner County Counselor Jack Potucek says although the county officials feel Global is the better choice and better for the county, they will now support Kansas Star. "Obviously we're going to work hard to make this casino a success for Sumner County. It's imperative it go forward and be successful," Potucek said.
CEO of Peninsula Gaming Brent Stevens say they don't want to divide the communities. He says the review boards decision means they're expected to spend $260 million over the next five years. He says although this contract has been awarded before, they will complete the project. "There has not been a project we've said we'd build that we've backed out of. In fact it's opened on time, on budget and to the pride of the community," Stevens said. One perk Peninsula plans to provide to the county is scholarship money. Every student who graduates from a high school in Sumner County will be eligible for a $1,000 scholarship for college.
An issue hanging over Stevens and his Chief Operating Officer Jonathan Swain is misdemeanor charges in Iowa. The two were charged for making illegal campaign contributions to the governor's race there. Stevens denies any wrong doing and says things will be cleared up in court. However, if the misdemeanor charge becomes a legal issue with the Kansas Lottery, Stevens and Swain will step aside. He says the misdemeanor will not impact the future of the Kanasas Star. He says there are other people in place that can take over and continue the project if necessary.
If Peninsula passes the background checks done by the Kansas Racing and Gaming Commission, it plans to break ground in early 2011. The contract calls for an interim casino to be open by early 2012. The interim casino will eventually be turned into the event center. In January 2013, the permanent casino will open along with 150 hotel rooms. By 2015, another 150 hotel rooms along with additional gaming amenities and an equestrian event center will open.