by Andy Holtmann
Penn National first to move on Kansas opportunity; proposes $295 million hotel-casino
Penn National Gaming became the first applicant to pitch running a state-owned casino gambling operation in Kansas in mid-September. The Wyomissing, Pa.-based company, in filing the application, said it would build a $295 million hotel-casino complex in Cherokee County in southeastern Kansas.
The state-run Kansas Lottery would own each of the four casinos approved for different areas around the state under the Kansas Expanded Lottery Act. The law allows for slot machines to be placed at three dog and horse racing tracks.
Former Kansas House Speaker Tim Shallenburger, a banker who’s representing Penn National, said a hotel-casino complex built by Penn National in Cherokee County could generate between $150 million and $200 million per year in gross revenues. It would likely attract patrons from Tulsa, Okla.; Joplin, Mo.; and Bentonville, Ark.
“It’s a new market,” Shallenburger said. “It’s a pretty good market that’s untapped.”
Penn National’s filing coincides with the original deadline of Sept. 7 for submission of completed applications. That deadline was recently extended by the Kansas Lottery Commission to allow Crawford County 90 days to seek a prospective gaming facility developer. Crawford and Cherokee Counties are both within the Expanded Lottery Act’s Southeast Gaming Zone, and both would be competing for the rights to build a single casino property.
“Our timely filing is a reflection of our eagerness to proceed with this tremendous economic development opportunity for southeast Kansas, and is the culmination of literally hundreds of hours of work over several months by dozens of individuals across various departments within our company,” Peter M. Carlino, chairman and CEO of Penn National Gaming said in a statement. “We took the time to do our homework on this proposed development project, which resulted in our earning an exclusive endorsement from Cherokee County and the opportunity to enter into a pre-development agreement with our host community. We look forward to working with the Lottery Commission as this process advances.”
While Kansas Lottery officials said Penn National’s timely submission and project scope wouldn’t mean an automatic stamp of approval, it did signify that the company was committed.
“It does show they are serious about the whole thing,” Lottery Director Ed Van Petten told the Associated Press. “They’ve been a very serious contender from day one.”
The new law allowing casinos is not without its own contention. Critics of the law have questioned just how much control the Kansas Lottery would have over the casinos’ gaming operations, and the AP reported that state Attorney General Paul Morrison filed a “friendly” lawsuit last week seeking a ruling on the law’s validity from the Kansas Supreme Court.
As of press time for this magazine, Las Vegas Sands Inc. and Pinnacle Entertainment had also submitted project proposals.