Residents of Sedgwick County in the state of Kansas do not seem likely to be given a second chance to vote on whether to allow slot machines at the disused Wichita Greyhound Park following a ruling from the state’s attorney general.
Sedgwick County voters rejected a ballot in 2007 that would have seen slots permitted at the venue and the track subsequently closed. At the same time, those in neighboring Sumner County approved a destination casino, which led to the opening of the Kansas Star Casino near the town of Mulvane in 2011.
Last year, a group calling itself Sedgwick First launched a petition drive to re-examine the issue, which failed by only 224 votes nine years ago, and open a slot parlor at the Wichita Greyhound Park as a way to raise much needed public revenues. This effort to bring gambling machines to the area saw Mark Kahrs, a Republican member of the Kansas House Of Representatives, ask Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt to issue an opinion on the matter.
In his Friday ruling, Schmidt stated that the courts would likely block any law that could bring about a re-vote on the issue in Sedgwick County as a breach of the Kansas Lottery‘s contract with the Kansas Star Casino, which is only 25 miles away from the Wichita Greyhound Park.
“It is clear that if the state were to take action today, in the absence of enactment of new legislation, to allow placement of [electronic gaming machines] at the Wichita racetrack facility, that action would violate both the contract and state law,” Schmidt told The Wichita Eagle newspaper.
The Kansas Star Casino is one of three state-owned casinos in the mid-western state, although a fourth is being planned, and it benefits from provisions in its contract that have been crafted to limit the number of gaming facilities with slot machines until at least 2032. The venue paid a privilege fee for the right to be the only gaming facility in south-central Kansas and Schmidt declared that its management “would have a strong claim for damages from lost market share due to the state’s illegal operation” should a competing venue open in Sedgwick County.
For his part, casino opponent Kahrs stated that the opinion “should shut down any debate on whether or not there should be a revote in Sedgwick County”.