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Willing to take a bet

4/8/2014

While the Legislature is out of the Statehouse for its spring break, let’s take a little spin at the roulette wheel.

There’s a game of chance going on in the governor’s office, and it will mean jobs, entertainment and state tax revenues, or not.

Spin the wheel, and the governor either signs — or doesn’t sign or allows to become law without his signature — a bill that would allow someone with approximately $55.5 million in cash and chips to build a casino in either Crawford or Cherokee counties in southeast Kansas.

The area — which has seen across-the-state-line casinos sprout like crabgrass in Oklahoma — needs some economic development, and a casino sure is one.

It’s probably not odd casinos don’t make it into most of the governor’s eco-devo speeches, or jobs creation speeches or cut-income-taxes speeches.

This is eco-devo with a little moral/social sandbag of gambling riding on it.

And actually, the chance for a casino in southeast Kansas would mirror the southwest Kansas casino at Dodge City, where to encourage the business, the state reduced the capital investment requirement from the $225 million for the Kansas City area to $50 million. And cutting the cash-up-front privilege fee for getting the casino license — sorta like a tip to the blackjack dealer after a good hand — brings the price to $5.5 million instead of the big-city casino fee of $25 million.

The investment requirements? Well, in the Kansas City area where there’s lots to do, a little more glamour is demanded to make sure the casino draws a crowd than in far-west Kansas and southeast Kansas. And, of course, the nice thing about playing slot machines is people play slot machines in a pole barn if they have to or maybe the back room of a fraternal organization.

But there is this gambling/spend the rent money social overtone non-gamblers refer to, and it turns out to be a fairly interesting little social policy decision for the governor. Socially conservative Kansans would prefer their fellow Kansans spend their money on painting their houses, feeding their children or probably attending even R-rated movies instead of putting money into slot machines or card games.

At some point, you have to figure Gov. Sam Brownback already has that conservative crowd, and if it gets ticked off he allows the casino, well, everyone makes mistakes. But, if he vetoes the bill to please the conservatives who are already going to be voting for him, does he upset the eco-devo crowd that likes to see bulldozers moving dirt and steelworkers welding building frames?

Interesting little decision coming up here.

And, the governor tends to be tidy enough nobody’s going to believe he lost the bill in a stack of old newspapers and candy wrappers on his desk.

Syndicated by Hawver News Co. of Topeka, Martin Hawver is publisher

of Hawver’s Capitol Report.

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