Topeka, Kansas (AP) — There’s renewed interest in building a state-owned casino in Sumner County, Kan., nearly four months after Las Vegas-based Harrah’s Entertainment Inc., pulled out.
Equity Ventures of Topeka, which had been an investment partner with Harrah’s, will submit two applications for a resort casino near Mulvane, spokeswoman Nancy Seitz said.
Seitz said Wednesday the proposal would involve the same group of Topeka investors associated with Harrah’s before it withdrew on Nov. 17, citing the economic upheaval.
She declined to give specifics about the Equity proposal but did say the project would be funded by cash.
„This partner has extensive gaming experience and is well-capitalized. The all-cash development will overcome the problems that caused the previous applicants to withdraw,“ she said.
The Kansas Lottery, which will own the gambling, set an April 1 deadline for submitting new applications for the 15-year contract to build and operate the Sumner County casino.
Equity is the first to announce plans to submit a casino application, although Ed Van Petten, the lottery’s executive director, said he expects more.
„We have had a number of people calling and asking questions,“ Van Petten said. „We always expected we would get applications, but to my knowledge we have had no names.“
Van Petten said the proposals must be endorsed by the local government before the Lottery can negotiate a contract. He said an endorsement for a casino by Sumner County voters remains valid.
Seitz said Equity’s two proposed locations are the former Harrah’s site near the Kansas Turnpike and another location about three miles east of the Turnpike. She said Equity prefers the turnpike location, but that land is involved in ongoing litigation challenging Mulvane’s annexation of the site.
Last year, Penn National Gaming Inc., of Wyomissing, Pa., and Marvel Gaming, of Las Vegas, had proposals for sites near Wellington, south of Mulvane. A state review board passed over them in favor of Harrah’s.
Janis Hellard, Sumner County Economic Development Commission director, said Equity’s announcement was welcome news.
„Everybody is playing it close. Nobody is coming out and announcing anything yet, so it’s good to hear somebody is making an announcement,“ Hellard said.
She said Marvel told her it wasn’t planning to return and „unless the circumstances have changed, I don’t expect them to be back.“
Penn National spokesman Eric Schippers said Wednesday that Penn still was „exploring its options“ in Kansas. Penn won the contract to manage the casino in Cherokee County, but walked away from it last fall saying it couldn’t compete with a nearby Oklahoma tribal casino.
A 2007 law created four state-owned casinos, one each in Ford, Sumner and Wyandotte counties and one either Crawford or Cherokee counties.
The only casino project under way is Boot Hill Casino and Resort in Dodge City. Construction started in December on the USD 88 million facility operated by Butler National Service Corp., of Olathe. The casino plans to open later this year, with a 124-room hotel and convention center to open by the end of 2011.
In December, a partnership of Kansas Speedway and Baltimore-based Cordish Co., withdrew its application for a casino at the speedway in Wyandotte County, saying it wanted to revise plans because of market conditions and resubmit them.
The deadline for applying in Wyandotte County is April 1. A Jan. 21 deadline for Crawford and Cherokee counties was extended to April 21 because there were no applicants.