Governor says no to Sumner County casino delay

The governor rejected a fourth proposed delay in the Sumner County casino process Thursday, casting doubt on the casino's future.

"I believe it is not in the best interest of Kansas, or the project stakeholders, to put this decision off any longer," Gov. Mark Parkinson said in a written statement denying a 60-day extension for Chisholm Creek Casino Resort.

"The State of Kansas needs a clear understanding of its finances, including Chisholm Creek's $25 million application fee, which is already being counted in this year's budget," he said.

A representative of Chisholm Creek's developers fired back that Parkinson's action "jeopardized state revenues this year, and perhaps forever, for a state-owned gaming operation in south-central Kansas."

Chisholm Creek's attorney, John Frieden, said he didn't know what action Chisholm Creek would take. It is the only remaining Sumner County casino applicant.

The developers had threatened Tuesday to abandon the project if the Kansas Lottery Gaming Facility Review Board voted to approve it that day as scheduled.

Frieden said Parkinson's decision could cost the state the $25 million privilege fee Chisholm Creek paid as part of the application. The state could use the money, he said, but it would be returned to Chisholm Creek if its contract isn't approved.

"It seems to me that a few weeks' extension would've been in the best interest of the state," Frieden said.

The seven-member casino review board has until April 19 to vote on the project. It asked the governor for the extension after Chisholm Creek said it wanted more time.

The developers cited concerns about potential changes in state legislation that might give Wichita Greyhound Park another chance to have slot machines. They also cited confusion over zoning and platting issues created by a recent Kansas Court of Appeals ruling.

Frieden said the state's expanded gambling law says the governor had to grant an extension unless the board had acted in bad faith.

But the board acted unanimously and in good faith in requesting the extension, Frieden said.

It had to ask for the delay, he said, because the Kansas Court of Appeals only recently created uncertainty in zoning and platting issues by ruling that the city of Mulvane's annexation of the casino site near the Kansas Turnpike was legal. A previous court ruling had determined the site was on county land.

In a letter to Stephen Martino, executive director of the Kansas Racing and Gaming Commission, Parkinson said the zoning issues were finalized Monday, which is when the Sumner County Commission approved Chisholm Creek's traffic and drainage plans for the site.

Frieden said Parkinson apparently ignored the fact that Mulvane won the lawsuit.

He said Chisholm Creek developers could have worked out the zoning and platting issues with Mulvane.

"But apparently the governor didn't want to give them the courtesy of doing that," Frieden said.

Parkinson also said in his letter to Martino that the potential exists every year for the legislature to consider changes to the gambling law.

"To stop any process because of hypothetical action that the legislature may, or may not take would set a precedent in which nothing is ever accomplished or advanced," Parkinson's letter said.

Parkinson also noted the previous 60-day extensions he'd granted during Chisholm Creek's application process.

He granted the Kansas Lottery an extension to approve the application more than a year ago. He granted the review board an extension to consider the contract in September.

Chisholm Creek in December asked the board for a delay to renegotiate the contract to protect against possible competition from a casino in Park City proposed by the Wyandotte Tribe of Oklahoma. That delay did not have to be approved by the governor. The negotiations lasted about two months.

Parkinson said in his letter that the review board's vote on the project would be put off until June if he granted another 60-day extension.

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