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Concerns may delay Sumner casino

Sumner County's casino project may face another delay.

Chisholm Creek Casino Resort officials plan to ask for more time before the state's casino review board votes on the project.

The seven-member board is scheduled to vote today in Topeka after reviewing the project with consultants and developers. The meeting will start at 8:30 a.m. at the Topeka Ramada Inn, 420 SE Sixth St.

But Richard Bienapfl, vice president of development for Lakes Entertainment, said Monday that Chisholm Creek will ask the board to postpone the vote because it is concerned about a gambling bill in the Kansas Legislature and a statewide smoking ban.

Lakes Entertainment would build and manage the casino.

A bill pending in the Kansas Senate would allow track operators a greater share of revenue from up to 1,200 slot machines at two tracks that are now closed: Camptown Greyhound Park in Frontenac, just outside Pittsburg, and the Woodlands dog and horse tracks in Kansas City.

The committee removed a provision allowing a public revote on slots in Sedgwick County, where voters rejected slots for Wichita Greyhound Park. But Bienapfl said lawmakers still could put Wichita's track back into the bill.

"It's kind of a fluid situation," he said.

"That confusion being thrown in there makes it very difficult. It scares away anybody who wants to put money in the project."

Bienapfl said that if slots were to go in at the Wichita dog track, there's no way that Chisholm Creek — which is planned for the Mulvane exit off the Kansas Turnpike — would be successful.

The Senate Federal and State Affairs Committee sent the bill to the Senate floor two weeks ago. It won't be considered until lawmakers return from their break April 28.

The casino review board has until April 19 to act on the Chisholm Creek proposal, although it could request a 60-day extension from Gov. Mark Parkinson.

Mike Deines, spokesman for the Kansas Racing and Gaming Commission, said the state hadn't heard from developers about an extension on Monday. "If they want an extension, I guess we'll just cross that bridge if and when it comes up (today)," he said.

Bienapfl said he didn't know how long an extension developers would request from the review board. They might want to wait until the end of the current legislative session, he said. The session is expected to end in May.

Bienapfl said developers are concerned to a lesser extent about the new state-wide smoking ban passed last month, even though it exempts casinos.

Bienapfl's comments came after Sumner County commissioners voted 2-0 to approve Chisholm Creek's plans for traffic egress and drainage at the site. One commissioner was absent due to medical reasons.

The commission had voted against the zoning request in February. Developers plan to have all traffic leave the casino on U.S. 81, and many residents in the area objected that it would cause safety issues.

Chisholm Creek offered commissioners two new traffic alternatives Monday. One would have traffic exit the casino on a road running north to K-53. The other would add two traffic circles at the turnpike to provide direct access for cars entering and leaving the casino.

One of those alternatives would be built, but only if a tribal casino planned for Park City doesn't open within two years of Chisholm Creek, planners said. If the tribal casino opens, traffic at Chisholm Creek would be significantly reduced, they said.

The Wyandotte Tribe of Oklahoma plans to build a casino in Park City, pending federal approval to have its land there taken into trust.

About a dozen people appeared before the commissioners to object to the new plans, arguing they still didn't resolve the drainage and traffic-safety issues in the area.

The county's planning and zoning commission had voted against Chisholm Creek last week.

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