Editorials

Tribal casino would defy public will

Kansas' casino review board was just being cautious Wednesday in asking for more time and information before it makes a decision on the proposed Chisholm Creek Casino Resort near Mulvane. Real questions remain about how a Sumner County casino would be affected if a proposed tribal casino materializes in Park City in Sedgwick County — something that would defy public will and be bad for the community.

Of course, the board's inaction means more disappointment for Sumner County, where voters approved a casino way back in 2005 and set off what has become an epic struggle to get the casino sited and approved.

Few could have guessed how hard and time-consuming the process would be, pitting neighbor against neighbor in Sumner County and causing local political upheaval.

There also was no predicting that the bottom would fall out of the economy, severely testing potential casino developers' ability to make the legally required minimum investment of $225 million in what lawmakers sought to ensure would be a destination resort as well as a place to gamble.

In truth, the state's expansion of gambling got ugly long before it got to Sumner County. Fifteen years of Statehouse debate led to 2007 legislation that bypassed the usual committee vetting process and passed both chambers in the middle of the night. The best to be said about the bill was that it gave Wichitans and other south-central Kansans a say in their future as a site of expanded gambling.

When its say came in August 2007, Sedgwick County ceded its claim on a casino to Sumner County, also nixing slot machines at the greyhound track.

The people spoke and that election should stand — which is why it's so troubling that the Wyandotte Tribe of Oklahoma proposes to put a $20 million to $30 million bingo-style casino on 10.5 acres it owns in Park City.

Though a tribal representative has suggested the tribe would share casino revenue with local governments, there is no guarantee; the casino would be untaxed and largely unregulated. It's possible that local governments could get all the social and security costs associated with casino gambling with none of the benefits, save for several hundred jobs.

In addition, as Attorney General Steve Six has argued, the Wyandotte tribe has no historical connection to the Park City land and the casino would be 270 miles from the tribe's reservation in Ottawa County, Okla. Even if the tribe gets the go-ahead from President Obama's Interior Department and manages to open this year, the casino will not belong in the community.

After all south-central Kansas has gone through trying to put a top-quality casino at the right location in a county where it's wanted, how maddening to think a lower-quality casino could open at the wrong location in a county where it's unwanted.

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