Beth King: Allow slots at greyhound park

03/12/2014 12:00 AM

03/11/2014 5:35 PM

When I attended the public forum with Kansas lawmakers in January as the spokeswoman for Wichita Wins, I heard many people pleading with legislators to restore or enhance funding for various state programs.

Wichita Wins is a group that supports allowing slot machines at the Wichita Greyhound Park – a move that would give new money to Sedgwick County, to other entities in Sedgwick County and to the state of Kansas.

Reopening the park would require that the Legislature pass a bill allowing us to vote in Sedgwick County on whether or not to allow slot machines at the park. The Sedgwick County Commission would need to put the question on the ballot, and if it passes (polls say it would) there would be innumerable benefits, much like the $7.8 million paid in 2013 property tax by the Kansas Star Casino.

First, the reopening of the park would be made possible by a private investment of $50 million to $100 million by owner Phil Ruffin. Such a reopening would create 500 new local jobs and a minimum of 3,000 new jobs statewide.

Sedgwick County would receive an estimated $2.1 million ($1.8 million in gaming revenue and an estimated $367,500 in new property-tax revenue). Additional property-tax revenue would be garnered as well. That revenue includes an estimated $770,000 to the Valley Center school district; $229,000 to Sedgwick County Fire District 1; $119,000 to Grant township; $14,000 to the South Central Kansas Library System; and $58,000 to Recreation Commission 262.

The state of Kansas would receive an estimated $50 million in gaming revenue.

Some say we should not vote again because we’ve already voted. Yes, we did. And the vote on this question was, according to some, quite confusing. It failed by 246 votes. But it wouldn’t be the first time we’ve voted on an issue more than once – the downtown arena is a case in point.

In this day and age of competing economic environments, it’s not often that a business owner is willing to make a private investment that generates new jobs and new revenue without government assistance. If you agree with us that we should have the opportunity to fully discuss these benefits, contact your legislators today asking them to let us vote.

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