PITTSBURG, Kansas — A northeast Oklahoma casino long cited as an obstacle to developing a casino in southeast Kansas could be a cornerstone in finally getting the gambling establishment built.
Kansas has three privately-built, state-owned casinos developed under a 2007 law that provided for casinos in four specific regions. But developers have shied away from the southeastern zone, made up of Cherokee and Crawford counties, largely because of competition from the Quapaw Tribe's Downstream Casino Resort — opened in 2008 so close to the state line that its parking lot is in Kansas.
Lawmakers eased one barrier this year by reducing the investment and fees required of prospective developers in the southeast, and the state is accepting applications until Dec. 19.
The first party to come forward with a plan is a partnership between Phil Ruffin Jr. — son of Wichita billionaire and Las Vegas casino owner Phil Ruffin — and the Downstream Casino itself. They hope to build a smaller version of the Oklahoma operation near Frontenac at the defunct Camptown Greyhound Park, which Ruffin owns, The Joplin Globe reported (http://bit.ly/1nKc41R ).
"We're trying to get some excitement, and hopefully we can win the bid," Ruffin said Thursday at a meeting of interested stakeholders in Pittsburg. "We want to bring some jobs to southeast Kansas."
The 90,000-square-foot Camptown complex has been closed since 1995, six months after it opened. If the plan is approved by the Kansas Lottery Commission — which would own the actual gambling — the state-owned casino would be privately managed by the partnership, which envisions an upscale destination.
John Berrey, chairman of the Downstream Development Authority, touted the proposed project as one that will bring good-paying jobs with good benefits, and produce revenue that "will benefit the city, the county and school districts."
"I think the area is ready for it," Berrey said. "We've done some detailed feasibility studies that say this is a great location, and we're very fortunate ... to get Ruffin and Company's buy-in on the idea."
Information from: The Joplin (Mo.) Globe, http://www.joplinglobe.com