Mulvane, other cities get ready for casino visitors

MULVANE — Cities and towns around the Kansas Star Casino are trying to figure out how to cash in on the action.

The casino, under construction near the Mulvane exit off the Kansas Turnpike, is expected to serve as an economic development engine from Wellington to Wichita, according to Mulvane city administrator Kent Hixson.

But communities in the area have to begin to find out how to capture casino visitors, he said.

Economic development officials from the region have met twice to study strategies and plan to study regional gaming and strategies used in other communities where casinos were built.

Tuesday, a group of chamber of commerce leaders met to talk about marketing approaches. The meeting at Mulvane City Hall included chamber officials from Wichita, Wellington, Mulvane, Derby, Clearwater, Haysville and Belle Plaine, as well as marketing officials from the Kansas Star.

A study by Ekay Economics for the state estimated the Kansas Star would have an overall economic impact — from property, sales and income taxes as well as gambling revenue — of $25 million a year in Sumner County and $11 million in Sedgwick County.

The chamber leaders met to consider ways to draw people going to and from the casino into their communities, and to inform people at the casino what services are available nearby, such as emergency medical care, auto services, hotels, restaurants and attractions.

"This casino can really benefit everybody in the region, and we want to make sure everybody has the opportunity to do that," said Hixson, who organized the meeting.

The chamber leaders discussed the possibility of a regional marketing approach, as well as marketing individual cities and towns.

They also talked about marketing to casino employees to let them know about housing possibilities and businesses in their communities.

They talked about coordinating efforts and events with the casino, where to place brochures inside the casino, and whether to prepare a single regional brochure.

Several said they wanted to coordinate marketing with each phase of casino development. The Kansas Star is scheduled to open early next year with an interim casino that will have limited food, beverage and retail amenities in a building that eventually will become an equestrian/events center.

It will open its permanent casino with restaurants and a 150-room hotel in 2013. By 2014, it will double the size of the hotel and equestrian/events facilities.

Each step offers marketing opportunities, chamber officials said.

They also discussed developing a web site that could serve as a regional information hub that local communities could link to.

They planned to gather promotional materials from each city to see what cities already are doing to market themselves.

A committee chaired by Shelley Hansel Williams, executive director of the Wellington chamber, will begin studying the issues.

Chamber leaders in the region will hold a series of meetings for at least the next year, Hixson said.

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