Legal challenges in the form of oral arguments were presented to the Kansas Supreme Court on Wednesday as a passed-over casino developer and Cherokee County exercise their last legal attempt to scuttle Kansas Crossing Casino before it opens near Pittsburg.
Brandon and Rodney Steven of Wichita, who were involved in the jilted Castle Rock Casino Resort project, along with Cherokee County, where their casino would have been located, filed lawsuits to stop Kansas Crossing from going forward. The casino has suffered intermittent delays and time extensions as previous hearings played out. Construction is in its final stages and the venue is expected to open on March 20, 2017 – barring a negative action by the Supreme Court.
Castle Rock attorneys argued that District Court Judge Larry D. Hendricks erred in upholding the Board’s earlier decision by not seeking more information and scheduling a further hearing on that information.
Kansas Crossing received 5 votes of 7 cast by the Lottery Review Board, Castle Rock Casino Resort received 2, and also-ran Camptown Casino had no support.
Several studies related to how much each proposal would generate in revenues presented wildly different conclusions. Estimates for Castle Rock ranged from a low of $48 million to a high as $83 million, with another study roughly splitting the difference at less than $60 million. The low study was paid for by the state and Castle Rock was already in defense mode challenging the numbers before the license decision was tendered.
The Kansas Crossing projections ranged from about $37 million to less than $43 million, which is the crux of the plaintiffs’ arguments.
In over an hour and a half of debate among the seven justices and four attorneys, at several points, the justices seemed to side with the district judge and disagree with Castle Rock attorneys about whether the determination process was defined or adhered to. They indicated that it was determined the Castle Rock proposal was not as viable as Kansas Crossing’s and that is why it was chosen. District Court Judge Larry D. Hendricks relayed similar sentiments in his April 2016 decision.
According to local news outlet the Pittsburg Morning Sun, attorneys for Kansas Crossing argued that “There is no mathematical formula that determines whether any applicant should win,” Fowler said, adding the preferred applicant would be one that “maximizes revenue, encourages tourism and [best] serves the interest of the people of Kansas, and I’m pleased to say that the Kansas Crossing Casino is well under construction. It is scheduled to open on March 20 this year. There are already 200 people hired or offered positions and by March 20 there are going to be 400 people employed.”
According to the Topeka Capital-Journal online, Pittsburg Mayor John Ketterman has said: “The delay which was sought by this lawsuit would not only be a severe economic hit for years, but also would be a disastrous setback to the spirits of southeast Kansans who need this project after the many unanticipated challenges we’ve faced recently,” Ketterman said.
It’s currently unclear when the Court will render a decision.