Wichita businessman Phil Ruffin has acquired an option to buy the idled Woodlands racetrack and grounds in Kansas City, Kan., with an eye toward reopening three Kansas tracks with racing and slot machines.
Ruffin already owns unused dog tracks in Wichita and Frontenac. What he needs now is state legislation to allow slot machines at the sites at a tax rate that would make operations feasible. Ruffin put that rate at 28 percent.
"It's a big hurdle to get that vote," Ruffin said.
If approved, Ruffin said he will invest to restore horse and dog racing at the Woodlands, which is owned by the family of the late William Grace.
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Grace's son Howard, of Phoenix, said the family has fought for years for slots as a way to revive the Woodlands.
"We'd love to see the racing resume," Grace said. "That was our late father's desire."
Ruffin said he is looking for a state senator to introduce legislation. His pitch is that restoring all three tracks and adding slot machines would bring jobs to the three markets.
"We're considering it primarily a jobs bill," Ruffin said. "You're talking 7,000 or 8,000 jobs total, counting the vets, the purchasers, the horse men, the dog men, all the farmers."
The option would allow Ruffin to buy the Woodlands track and 400 acres over the next six months. He did not disclose terms of the proposal.
Upgrades and gaming installation would take three or four months but allow reopening of the facilities before year's end, Ruffin said.
The Woodlands has been closed since 2008 after losing money for years. Ruffin closed Wichita Greyhound Park after Sedgwick County voters defeated slots in 2007.
Ruffin's business interests include the Treasure Island Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas and real estate holdings that place him in Forbes magazine's annual ranking of the 400 wealthiest Americans.