Billionaire businessman Phil Ruffin has purchased the Woodlands racetrack in Kansas City, Kan., from Howard Grace for an undisclosed amount.
“It was a lot,” Ruffin says.
“It’s been closed, but there’s a Senate bill that’s going to allow them to get slots and run thoroughbreds, and that was where our interest was piqued,” he says. “It has to go through the House in January or February of the next session.”
Ruffin, who owns the Treasure Island casino and hotel in Las Vegas, hopes to be able to simultaneously reopen the Woodlands and two tracks he already owns – Wichita Greyhound Park in Park City and Camptown Greyhound Park in Frontenac, north of Pittsburg.
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“We’re working on some legislation now,” he says. “If we could tie all three tracks in, put them all to bed, we could employ roughly 2,000 people. Two thousand people. It’s a jobs bill.”
There are a couple of issues he has to overcome first.
Ruffin says that includes getting the tax rate changed at Camptown.
“The reason we didn’t open Camptown is the tax rate is 60 percent,” he says. “That’s too high.”
Ruffin says that compares to 22 percent at the Woodlands.
Why the difference?
“That’s a good question.”
He said that’s one of his arguments.
In addition to getting slots approved at the Woodlands, Ruffin also has to get them approved for his Wichita track.
Ruffin closed the greyhound park in 2007 after a slots vote failed. He notes that it lost by only a couple hundred votes, and he believes that’s because it was tied to the casino vote.
“I think this time we could do better,” he says.
Ruffin isn’t sure on timing for a new vote.
“We’re thinking about how we do that.”
Ruffin is less sure about what will happen in the Legislature.
“We’re here for a lot of years,” he says. “If they don’t pass it this year, you know, we’ll try again next year like we always have. We’re persistent.”
Ruffin’s focus is on jobs, he says.
“There are people in the government that don’t really care about that, but it’s a big deal. A very, very big deal. You can’t find 2,000 jobs anywhere.”
He says he can employ “all kinds of people.”
In Wichita, Ruffin says he could hire about 500 people. At the Woodlands, he anticipates hiring 500 to 700 people. Ruffin estimates he could hire 300 to 400 at Camptown.
“They’d all be good jobs,” he says.
For instance, he says slot technicians would make $60,000 to $70,000 a year.
If slots don’t work out for the Woodlands, Ruffin says he still has a good investment.
“It’s got a great location,” he says, noting that it’s near the Legends Outlets shopping area.
“I’ve got … a 400-acre piece of ground. Still valuable.”