A decision by the Kansas Supreme Court will pave the way for more casinos in the Sunflower State. Friday, the court unanimously upheld the Kansas Expanded Lottery Act which allowed the state's Lottery Commission to build four new casinos.
At issue was whether what the Legislature calls state-owned and
operated casinos really were that. That's because day-to-day
operations of the casinos will be left to contractors.
Friday's unanimous ruling puts to rest the question about the constitutionality of last year's law that calls for four state-owned and operated resort casinos plus slot machines at racetracks in Kansas City, Kan., and Frontenac.
Then-Attorney General Paul Morrison had challenged the 2007 law, since it was designed not to go into effect until the Court had weighed in. Much of the challenge depended on the lottery's role as owner and operator of the casino. The Court said it approached those pillars as "flexible concepts" and the court said it would "carry out the intention of the citizens when they enacted the provision, and... will read a statute with a presumption of a statute with a presumption of constitutionality."
In February, a Shawnee County District Court had said the law
The Court first turned to the 1986 amendment authorizing the state to create a lottery to determine whether casino gaming was included.
Justice Eric S. Rosen, writing for the Court, stated that "the payment of gaming revenues directly to the state, the ownership by the state of software licenses, the central monitoring of electronic games, and the authority to enter into management contracts and to supervise the managers constitute substantial indicia of ownership by the atate and concomitant operation."
Further, the legislation conformed to the amendment since it is designed to "promot[e] economic welfare and growth of this state."
Attorney General Stephen Six also contended the law improperly delegated power to the casino managers and that the "state has surrendered so much operational discretion to private managers that those managers will exercise legislative functions, which are contitutionally reserved to the legislature."
The Court rejected that arguement, ruling the ownership and operational control exerted by the state were not merely "verbal camoflauge."
Kansas House Speaker Melvin Neufeld, R-Ingalls, said he was disappointed in the Court's ruling. He says it's "disingenuous" to believe people who supported creating a Lottery intended to support casinos. Neufeld also says casinos are the wrong way to go about raising revenue for the state.
“I would certainly prefer to sit down and find a way to make our state financially secure without literally staking our future on a bet,” Neufeld said in a statement. “Construction of the casinos will give us some room to breathe. However once the casinos are operating, the potential for these predicted revenues to fall is a real concern.”
Six says the ruling will allow the state's plans to move forward.
"This was a critical constitutional question for the Kansas Supreme Court. The Attorney General’s Office played an important role in verifying the constitutionality of our state’s new expanded gaming statute," Six said in a statement. "Because the law withstood our vigorous challenge, economic development and investment can begin across Kansas."
(The Associated Press contributed to this article)