One needn’t be pro-gaming to be stunned by the Kansas Senate’s approval of a bizarre, anti-democratic bill to prevent Sedgwick County from holding another vote on gambling until 2032.
And The Eagle editorial board doesn’t consider itself pro-gaming, having endorsed “no” votes in the 2007 election because the risks of expanded gambling outweighed the promised economic benefits. The board also has opposed efforts to allow a tribal casino in Sedgwick County.
But before the two ballot questions went to voters seven years ago, the board argued that Sedgwick County residents should have the opportunity to vote. What mattered was that county voters be allowed to debate and decide whether they wanted a destination casino, a dog track with slot machines, or both. They opted for neither (though the dog track question, it should be said, was confusing and defeated by only 246 votes).
So it was infuriating to see the Kansas Senate, now led by a Sedgwick County voter, President Susan Wagle, vote 28-12 Tuesday to deny other Sedgwick County voters any opportunity for the next 18 years to decide on whether to allow a casino or to allow slots at the now-closed Wichita Greyhound Park.
The bill also constitutes overkill, because legislators already have an effective means of preventing another Sedgwick County gambling vote – their refusal to pass the legislation needed to allow one.
Wagle said the bill was “about avoiding very costly elections when the public has already made its intent clear.” But she can’t know that the voters’ will as made clear in 2007 will reflect the voters’ will in 2017 or 2027. Nobody can.
And when the Legislature starts telling one Kansas county that it can’t vote on something, all 105 counties should be alarmed.