A wide-ranging Senate debate on gambling Friday touched on smoking, slots at the Wichita Greyhound Park, nudity at casinos and whether there should even be a Sumner County casino.
Then, after six hours of debate, the Senate voted 19-20 to reject the bill.
As amended, the bill would have banned smoking at casinos starting in 2014 and allowed track operators a greater share of revenue from slot machines at two tracks that are now closed: Camptown Greyhound Park in Frontenac, just outside Pittsburg, and the Woodlands dog and horse tracks in Kansas City.
The bill, originally focused just on the slots revenue, was amended early in the discussion to ban smoking at casinos.
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A new statewide smoking ban, set to begin July 1, had allowed smoking in state-owned casinos. That exception rankled many lawmakers, who called the provision hypocritical in a law that bans smoking in privately owned businesses.
Later, another amendment postponed the smoking ban at casinos until Jan. 1, 2014.
That prompted Sen. Tim Huelskamp, R-Fowler, to ask for time to draft a proposed amendment to delay implementation of the state’s new smoking ban until 2014. His amendment failed, 12-21.
Among other gaming topics during the debate:
„ The Senate rejected an attempt to let Sedgwick County residents vote again on slot machines at the Wichita Greyhound Park.
The vote was 18-20 on an amendment offered by Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley, D-Topeka.
Sedgwick County voters rejected slots at Wichita Greyhound Park by 244 votes out of more than 103,000 cast in 2007, at the same time they rejected a casino by more than 12,000 votes. The track later closed.
“I cannot believe that a senator in this chamber would take it upon himself to try to meddle in Sedgwick County’s business when we’ve already voted. The voters have had their say,” said Sen. Les Donovan, R-Wichita.
„ An amendment to eliminate the south-central gaming zone — killing any future casino development in Sumner County — was withdrawn by Sen. Ty Masterson, R-Andover.
He called his attempt to eliminate the zone “a move to protect the people of Sedgwick County,” who had rejected a casino.
Masterson said that Sumner County’s mail-in ballot was “not a vote. It was more of a mail in survey.”
In a mail-in advisory referendum in 2005, Sumner County residents approved a casino 4,842 votes to 2,838 votes.
„ The Senate added a provision that would allow the state to retain the privilege fee — $25æmillion for the south-central gaming zone — if a casino operator signed a contract then later pulled out after the agreement was finalized.
Sen. Vicki Schmidt, R-Topeka, compared the money to earnest money that is put down when negotiating a house sale.
“You put the money down, sign the contract and if you decide you don’t want to go through with the contract, you lose your money,” she said.
The existing law requires all applicants to submit the fee within 30 days of signing a contract with the Kansas Lottery. They get the money back if they aren’t selected as the winning bidder, or if their contracts aren’t finalized.
The top bidders have twice pulled out before their contracts were finalized in Sumner County — and gotten their $25æmillion back. Harrah’s withdrew in 2007 and Chisholm Creek withdrew last month.
The bidding process has been reopened in the county with a July 22 deadline for applications.
„ Another amendment that lost, but prompted some vocal guffaws in the normally se-date Senate chamber, came from Sen. Mary Pilcher Cook, R-Shawnee.
She wanted to ban nudity in state-owned casinos.
“I don’t know if this could take place, but I want to be proactive, because this is a state-owned property and we have to protect our citizens,” she said.
Fellow lawmakers did not view the potential problem quite so seriously.
“It takes a skillful seamstress to get the little skirts and shorts to fit the dogs and horses,” said Sen. Pete Brungardt, R-Salina, who was presenting the bill. “But I’m sure in the state of Kansas the skills could be found.”
He called the amendment unnecessary.
Other lawmakers wondered if the measure could prevent people from going to the bath-room in casinos or taking showers or getting nude in the hotel rooms that are planned at some sites.
Sen. Chris Steineger, D-Kansas City, also noted that the bill’s definition of nudity mentioned cleavage. He wondered how appropriate cleavage was defined and observed current fashions included some very low-cut tops.
“How do we define cleavage? I know how I define it in my own mind,” he said.
Joking aside, the amendment failed on a roll call vote 14-18 with six senators passing on the vote.
Contributing: Fred Mann of The Eagle; Associated Press