DODGE CITY — Praising this town for its perseverance and fighting spirit, Gov. Mark Parkinson officially opened the Boot Hill Casino and Resort on Wednesday.
About 200 people attended a ribbon-cutting ceremony in front of the casino and listened to Parkinson, state and local leaders, and gaming officials laud the casino as a boon to western Kansas.
Parkinson said he remembered first hearing talk about a casino as a legislator 20 years ago. It came mostly from high-priced developers from Las Vegas who brought their New York City attorneys with them, he said.
All they wanted to do was build a casino in Kansas City, Parkinson said. Meanwhile, representatives from Dodge City and Butler National Corp. CEO Clark Stewart kept urging lawmakers not to forget Dodge City.
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"I think it's a great Kansas story that the very first casino in this state isn't a high-priced casino in Kansas City," Parkinson said.
The crowd cheered and applauded.
Citing an agricultural boom and a growing wind farm industry, Parkinson said, "Western Kansas and Dodge City are on a roll. The rest of the country and the rest of the state are in a recession, and I don't see that out here."
Parkinson then cut the ribbon to officially open the casino, though it informally opened Tuesday.
About 2,000 people visited the casino on Tuesday, said Sharon Stroburg Boot Hill marketing director.
Tuesday was a short day. The casino opened at 1 p.m. and closed at 11 p.m. to prepare for Wednesday's ceremony. It reopened immediately after the ceremony.
Senate President Steve Morris, R-Hugoton, told the audience that having the first casino in the U.S. with direct state oversight would make visitors to Boot Hill more comfortable.
Carol Sader, chairwoman of the Kansas Racing and Gaming Commission, which will regulate the state-owned casinos, sought to assure the audience that the commission is committed to overseeing all rules and regulations of the casino and enforcing the laws.
"We're looking forward to the Boot Hill Casino and Resort becoming the proving site for gambling with integrity," she said.