What's the Matter with Kansas?

CONTINETTI, MATTHEW

What's the Matter with Kansas? The state contemplates going into the casino business. BY MATTHEW CONTINETTI SUSAN WAGLE is a busy Republican state senator from Sedgwick County, Kansas. In...

...Sam Brownback and Rep...
...Thus it is not surprising that, when confronted with a financial shortfall, states look to foster more gambling...
...In general, she is busy running for lieutenant governor, but more recently she has been busy preventing Kansas from becoming the first state in the country to own and operate casinos...
...The amount: $853 million over two years...
...But the casinos themselves would be run by private entities...
...Between the lotto's creation and June 30, 2005, some $844,683,570 was poured into state coffers, according to the lottery's official website...
...In 1987, Kansas established its state lottery...
...On January 3, 2005, the State Supreme Court ruled that the legislature was not spending enough money on public schools...
...All is chief counsel to Kansas's Democratic governor, Kathleen Sebelius, and he has a point...
...thrilled about gaming, but we're surrounded by it," Matthew All said...
...For now, Kansas will not own casinos...
...The tribal option presented difficulties of its own...
...If the intent of this legislation is to insure that everyone in the state is within close proximity to a gaming machine," Hein said, "then this bill fulfills that expansive intent...
...State governments rely heavily on lotteries as a source of revenue...
...Some also goes to the "Economic Development Initiatives Fund," and any excess revenues go to the "State General Fund," where it is allocated at the legislature's discretion...
...It will continue to haunt this building until we finally put it to rest...
...We're not Matthew Continetti is a staff writer at THE WEEKLY STANDARD and author of the forthcoming K Street Gang (Doubleday...
...There were two options: more Indian casinos, or state-owned and -operated casinos...
...In the end, the various interests at workóthe tribes, the private casino companies, the antitax legislature, and those who are troubled by the social effects of gambling and the moral implications of government feeding off the vices of its own citizensócancelled each other out...
...Under the bill, the state government would allow two casinos to be built, and would permit racetracks to operate electronic games such as slots and video poker...
...According to All, a similar arrangement is found in two Canadian provinces, Ontario and Saskatchewan...
...Though technically illegal, Internet gambling is thriving...
...A flurry of litigation ensued in which the court worked out the precise amount of money that it felt should be spent on education...
...Yet the most vociferous opposition to the casino bill came not from good-government types, but from the Indian casino owners, who understood that competition from the state would threaten their profits...
...The president of the senate and speaker of the house would each appoint two members to the commission...
...Financial losses or bankruptcy, addiction, drug and alcohol abuse, higher divorce and suicide rates, and other harms have long plagued casino patrons...
...It was a very ugly debate," Wagle said...
...The "Problem Gaming Grant Fund," the "Juvenile Detention Facilities Fund," and the "Correctional Institutions Building Fund," for starters...
...In 1975, gambling was permitted in only one state...
...Gambling visits a host of social problems upon gamblers themselves," Brownback and Tiahrt's chiefs of staff replied in a joint January 25 letter, "particularly those most vulnerable...
...Kansas is a typical case...
...Where does the money go...
...A look at the Kansas lottery suggests legalized gambling's benefitsó and its costs...
...So in late January 2006, chief counsel All sent Sen...
...On March 10, Ron Hein, a Topeka attorney who represents tribal casinos, testified before the state senate's federal and state affairs committee...
...Now every state but two has legalized some game or other...
...Since the federal government regulates tribal gambling, the state would have to enlist its federal representatives...
...The state legislature, under Republican control, ruled out any tax increase...
...We need to stand up and say enough is enough," Wagle told me...
...Todd Tiahrt a letter requesting their assistance in lobbying the Department of Interior to expand Indian gambling in Kansas...
...Here, too, Kansas is typical...
...The legislators denied the request...
...The bill is dead," All emailed from his office in the Kansas state house last week...
...Last week, thanks in part to Wagle's efforts, the state senate defeatedóby a vote of 20 to 16, with 4 abstentionsóa bill (SB 587) that would not only have put Kansas in the casino business, but would also have expanded racetrack gambling, video slots, and poker...
...It is all too easy to see the manifold opportunities for graft and cronyism under such an arrangement...
...That left the state-casino option, which led to SB 587...
...Gambling is an extremely easy way for a state government to raise money...
...The contracts would be awarded, initially, for a maximum of 15 years...
...The state's take would be at least 24 percent of gross revenue, of which 75 percent would go to the state education fund...
...Over time, Governor Sebe-lius, in consultation with the state senate Republican leadership, settled on a compromise that would have increased gambling revenues in order to fill the gaping financial hole...
...Gambling is an $80 billion-a-year industry...
...Last week, for example, the Kansas City Star reported that gambling-related campaign contributions had increased by 300 percent since the year 2000...
...The state would choose the games, set odds, and conduct audits...
...The gambling industry has insinuated itself into American culture and politics to such an extent that, if games were suddenly banned, the fiscal footing of many state governments would be undermined...
...A seven-person commission would choose among several bidders for the exclusive casino contracts...
...And books about poker enjoy widespread sales...
...Today, in addition to the lottery, two counties have dog- and horse-racing tracks, and four Indian tribes operate casinos...
...But the issue isn't exactly dead...
...The governor would appoint three...
...And it was probably the first of many...
...I'd describe it as undead...
...The odds are against her...
...Those entities would cover all expenses, including construction and payroll costs...
...ESPN's World Series of Poker has made celebrities of professional gamblers...
...Last year, one online poker executive told 60 Minutes that he believes "about 12 and a half million Americans now use Internet gambling in its widest form...

Vol. 11 • March 2006 • No. 26


 
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