Tribe set to open Kansas City casino

Dec 31, 2007 4:21 AM

While gaming companies across America submitted applications for casino licenses to Kansas state officials, a tribal casino prepares to open in downtown Kansas City on Jan. 10.

The three-story casino and steakhouse in a former Masonic Temple will be operated by the Oklahoma-based Wyandotte Nation, whose leaders have been planning the gaming operation for nearly a dozen years.

Still, state officials, led by the Kansas attorney general’s office, are trying desperately to prevent the casino from opening. They have filed a motion with the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver, Colo., asking that it overturn an October decision that dismissed a federal lawsuit against the casino.

At that time the court ruled that the state’s challenge of the tribal casino came after the land had been placed in trust by the federal government on behalf of the tribe, thereby insulating the government from the state’s lawsuit and leaving the federal courts with no jurisdiction.

Kansas state lawyers disagreed. In the new motion, they argued that the federal government’s timing argument is incorrect and that federal attorneys can’t raise the issue of timing now after ignoring it for 11 years.

Tribal leaders announced that until they hear otherwise from the courts they are going forward with the casino opening. They spent $20 million on the building, preparing it as a casino attraction.

Meanwhile, the state continued to receive applications from gaming companies seeking the opportunity to build casinos in three locations, Sumner and Wyandotte counties and either in Cherokee or Crawford counties.

Among the companies that have filed applications are Harrah’s Entertainment Inc. (HET), Penn National Gaming Inc. (PENN), Pinnacle Entertainment Inc. (PNK), the partnership of MGM MIRAGE Inc. and Foxwoods Development Co., Golden Gaming Inc., and the partnership of the Cordish Co. and gaming executive Dennis Gomes.

Loss reported

American Wagering Inc. (BETM), whose sports betting subsidiary operates under the name of Leroy’s, reported its third continuous losing quarter for the period that ended on Oct. 31, 2007, according to a filing made with the Securities & Exchange Commission (SEC).

The company said it had a net loss of $196,000 on total revenue of $5.1 million. This was down from the previous quarter when the company reported a net loss of $978,000.

For the period that ended on April 30, the company said its net loss was $199,000 while in the first quarter of the fiscal year that ended on Jan. 31, the company had a net profit of $360,000.

The income filing statement carried no further explanation of the company’s operating experience.

Important vote

While the nation focuses on Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire early voting, Californians are seeing the effects of campaign money being used to influence thinking relative to the expansion of gambling at four major tribal casinos.

Earlier in 2007, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger negotiated a deal with four wealthy southern California tribes that if approved will permit the tribes to add a total of 17,000 slot machines at their casinos.

For the voters who will be asked to approve the gambling expansion in balloting on Feb. 5, they must decide whether the $100 million per year the Indians have agreed to pay the state would justify their vote for the additional slot machines.

The tribes, whose casinos are in Temecula, Palm Springs, Cabazon and San Diego, reportedly have agreed to spend as much as $80 million in lobbying for a favorable vote.

Opponents, including racetrack operators, competing tribes and a casino-workers’ union, admit they can’t raise nearly enough money to compete but are counting on voters to see their side and oppose the expansion.

THE INSIDER: The National Labor Relations Board has agreed to review 12 objections the operators of Foxwoods Resort Casino have filed in complaints about the union vote in which dealers voted 1,289 to 852 in favor of the United Auto Workers.

Fitch Ratings has upgraded the credit ratings of Bally Technologies Inc. (BYI) citing improved financial performance.

Gaming Partners International Corp. (GPIC) has notified the SEC that the company has made internal amendments to the company’s articles of incorporation.

Little chance has been given to efforts by horse and dog tracks in Texas to get slot machine approval. The matter was soundly defeated by lawmakers when it last was proposed.

Harrah’s Entertainment Inc. (HET) says it has received regulatory approval from all its various jurisdictions that would permit the company to be acquired by a pair of private investment groups.

Account wagering on races at tracks in New Jersey and New York has been added to TrackNet Media Group, a company formed by the partnership of Churchill Downs Inc. (CHDN) and Magna Entertainment Corp. (MECA).

The Colorado ban on smoking in "indoor arenas" now affects the state’s casinos. However, a legislative effort is underway to improve casino performance by eliminating the wagering cap and permitting facilities to open round-the-clock.

A remodeled wing of the Harrington Raceway & Casino in Harrington, Del., has added 437 slot machines as well as a buffet and dessert bar.