On Monday, Cherokee County commissioners voted to appeal a Shawnee County judge’s decision last month that upheld the manner in which a license for a state casino being built in Crawford County was awarded by Kansas.
As much as $20,000 in legal fees for the appeal was authorized by commissioners in a 2-1 vote. Commissioner Pat Collins and the chairman of the commission, Robert Myers, voted for the appeal, according to The Joplin Globe. The proposal for Castle Rock that wasn’t chosen, which would have been built in Cherokee County, continues to receive support from commissioners. Voting against the appeal was Commissioner Charles Napier.
The $70.2 million Kansas Crossing Casino and Hotel is expected to open in March next year. Kansas Crossing officials have said that the venue would create 325 permanent jobs and approximately 380 construction jobs during construction of the facility, which is located at the northwest corner of U.S. Highways 160 and 69.
The Houston developer, Bruce Christenson, who is the Crawford County casino’s lead investor called the appeal “a frivolous lawsuit.” Christenson said that employees are working on the project and that a ceremonial groundbreaking will happen soon. He said, “It’s really time for Southeast Kansas to come together and get behind this project.”
Bankrolling Cherokee County’s legal fees is Galena businessman Gary Hall. To date, more than $150,000 has been paid by Penfield Business Centers. Officials have stated that if the effort to challenge the Crawford County casino is unsuccessful, the money put up by Hall would not have to be repaid. The attorney for the competing Castle Rock casino, Russell Jones, has said on previous occasions that the business would probably appeal.
A 44-page decision by Judge Larry Hendricks released in March said that there was substantial evidence to support the decision by the review board that recommended Kansas Crossing. In June, the Lottery Gaming Facility Review Board voted 5-2 to recommend Kansas Crossing. And in July, another state commission also voted for Kansas Crossing. The petition for judicial review seeking to restart the casino selection process was denied by Hendricks.
According to the lawsuit, the Castle Rock Casino Resort proposal for a casino in Cherokee County was the “best” choice. Backers of the $147 million project say their proposal would have created more jobs and revenue than the two other project proposals. They also claim that awarding the contract to the smaller, approximately $72 million Kansas Crossing Casino is not in accordance with the state law. Cherokee County officials say without court intervention the county will lose at least $8.5 million in taxes and other economic benefits. According to developers, the Kansas Crossing development is expected to have 16 gaming tables and 625 slot machines and attract an estimated 500,000 visitors a year. While Castle Rock would have had 35 table games, 1,400 slot machines, and a poker room with 16 tables. Estimates of a million or more visitors a year were predicted for the casino.