Helped by the timing of a struggling economy, Peninsula Gaming’s Kansas Star casino project near the Mulvane exit of the Kansas Turnpike is drawing an impressive crowd 11 months before its first phase is scheduled to open. As of Wednesday morning, more than 2,000 people had filed online applications for the good-paying jobs promised at the $260 million casino and convention, events and equestrian center. Hundreds of area vendors have applied, too. That all adds up to an endorsement of sorts, on top of the one Sumner County voters made several years ago.
Yet some state lawmakers remain in an unwelcoming mood, chief among them House Speaker Mike O’Neal, RHutchinson. Still sore about the passage of the 2007 gaming law, they have considered asking Attorney General Derek Schmidt to wade into the issue and perhaps even intervene with a legal challenge to the casino contract, and are hesitating about whether to use Peninsula’s $25 million fee to help balance the state budget. O’Neal and others are troubled by the pending misdemeanor criminal case in Iowa against two top Peninsula officials, including CEO Brent Stevens, over allegations related to campaign contributions.
Though the campaign-finance charges are a concern, they were scrutinized and ultimately discounted as Peninsula worked its way through Kansas’ three state regulatory bodies. “It was a very thorough process,” Stevens told The Eagle editorial board this week, expressing confidence that the legal case will be resolved in Peninsula’s favor.
The Kansas Star promises to deliver much-needed jobs and stimulate nearby economic development, and it eventually will meet a crucial regional need for a place to host large equestrian events.
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The Legislature’s gaming foes don’t have to like the fact that a destination casino is coming to Sumner County, but they should start learning to live with it.