For a few days, it looked like Sedgwick County voters might get a chance to vote in November about whether to allow slot machines at the long-closed Wichita Greyhound Park.
But after hearing overwhelming opposition, commissioners unanimously tabled a resolution at their Sept. 4 meeting to put this question on the ballot: “Should the Kansas lottery be authorized to place electronic gaming machines at a licensed parimutuel facility in Sedgwick County?”
Phil Ruffin’s greyhound park closed after Sedgwick County residents voted against a state-owned casino. Kansas Star Casino opened in 2012 in Mulvane, which straddles both Sedgwick and Sumner counties. Sumner County residents voted in favor of a casino.
Commissioners said they were weary of a possible lawsuit against the state because of 25-year exclusive agreements with four casinos located in Mulvane, Kansas City, Dodge City and Pittsburg.
Commissioner Jim Howell, whose district includes Derby and parts of Mulvane, told The Informer that the Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt advised the county that he would “sue us immediately” if the county placed the question on the November ballot. Howell also said that putting a “non-binding advisory question” on the ballot could have proved troublesome for Tabitha Lehman, the county’s election commissioner.
Allowing the greyhound park to reopen with slot machines likely would have led to “all four casinos suing for breach of contract,” he said.
Howell said commissioners also heard from animal rights activists opposed to dog racing.
Commissioners Lacey Cruse and David Dennis expressed similar concerns.
“This is a state of Kansas issue,” Cruse said. “This cannot be decided by county commissioners. I’m not interested in getting into a lawsuit on the taxpayers’ dime.”
Mulvane City Administrator Kent Hixson said the 1% of gaming revenue that the city receives has allowed it to lower property taxes and utility rates as well as make public improvements.
Through July, Mulvane has received almost $14 million from the casino.
“Mulvane, Sumner and Sedgwick Counties each get 1% of the gaming revenue from the Kansas Star Casino,” Hixson said. “If Sedgwick County were to approve slot machines, how would the current 1% be reduced? How much is the guy wanting slots at the track going to give Sedgwick County to make up for that loss?”