Bad hand: Shared frustration about casinos

Sumner County voters said they wanted casino gambling, making the withdrawn plans and endless approval process frustrating.

Sedgwick County voters said they didn’t want casino gambling, making the prospect of a tribal casino now beyond frustrating.

Talk about being dealt a bad hand.

Realizing Sumner County’s casino dream will take careful consideration by the state’s seven-member casino review board, which must decide within 60 days whether to contract with Peninsula Gaming Partners to build a casino near Mulvane or with Global Gaming Partners to put one near Wellington. The Sumner County Commission prefers Global Gaming, but proximity to the populous Wichita market suggests Peninsula’s plan might be the better choice for the state’s revenue needs.

With the Harrah’s company’s decision to yank its proposal for a second time, long-suffering Sumner County also must hope for no more cold feet by developers, as well as for a steadily strengthening economy.

Yet Sumner County’s casino plans also face a competitive threat from the north: a possible bingo-based Wyandotte Nation casino along I-135 in Park City.

As bad as a tribal casino potentially would be for Sumner County, it could be worse for Sedgwick County -- which, in 2007, rejected slot machines at the greyhound track and a destination casino that would have come with attractive revenue deals for the county and state.

The proposed $30 million-$50 million Wyandotte casino would be built on land with no historical connection to the tribe, whose Kansas roots are in Kansas City,Kan. It should not be able to buy up land 270 miles away from its reservation in Ottawa County, Okla., and open an untaxed and largely unregulated casino -- not given the social costs that follow casino gaming’s introduction to a community. Yet the tribe’s plans gained credibility last week with news that it had purchased a commercial lot adjoining the defunct Wild West World. The tribe, which already had purchased 10.5 acres nearby in 1992, hopes to acquire more property along I-135 and break ground later this year.

The legal issues are complex regarding the U.S. Department of Interior’s pending decision about whether to put the tribe’s Park City land in trust for gambling, and then the process of negotiating a gaming compact with the state.

But the reason to hope for a federal denial is simple: Sedgwick County voters, who already said they didn’t want a destination casino, shouldn’t now have to have a smaller, lower-quality casino forced upon them by a tribe with no ties to the county. The tribe has suggested it might share the revenue with area governments, but would it be enough to counter the trouble the casino might cause?

Locals must wait in shared frustration to see whether a casino will come to Sumner County and won’t come to Sedgwick County. In any case, it can’t be stressed enough that if tribal gaming comes to Park City, it will be in defiance of public will.