Bill approved in Senate committee to help Woodlands reopen

A bill was approved today by the Kansas Senate Federal and State Affairs Committee that would help The Woodlands racetrack in Kansas City, Kan.

Discussed at the Kansas Lottery Commission meeting today, the bill would reduce the amount that would be required for racetracks to give the state from slots proceeds from 40 percent to 22 percent, lottery officials said.

Lottery officials did not take a position on the bill today, and said they are not sure if the Senate plans to work the bill before it wraps up the 2015 legislative session. They also were not aware of any movement in the House regarding a similar bill this session.

Lottery commissioner Tom Roberts of Kansas City, Kan., asked about the legislation approved by voice vote in committee today. Lottery commissioner Jim Washington of Basehor noted that every time he goes to Wyandotte County, someone asks him about reopening The Woodlands.

The Woodlands at 9700 Leavenworth Road in Kansas City, Kan., closed in 2008 after a bill was passed allowing horse and dog tracks to have slot machines, but requiring them to give 40 percent of the gaming proceeds to the state, as compared to 22 percent from the state-owned casinos.

About 2,800 slot machines could be at The Woodlands if it reopens, according to officials.

In a statement in January, Sen. Steve Fitzgerald, R-5th Dist., said he had tried to help the Woodlands make a comeback for the past two years, sponsoring legislation that would help it reopen.

Today Sen. Fitzgerald said this bill is basically the same one he has offered the past three years.

“We’ve been here before,” he noted. The bill came out of committee last year and died on the floor, he said. He hopes this year to get it passed in the Senate, and then in the House.

“Early celebration is probably not a good idea,” he remarked.

While he has heard there have been some interested parties, he is not aware of any solid effort currently being made to invest in and reopen The Woodlands, he said.

The real key is getting investors who want to reopen the facility, he said.

“We’re trying to set the conditions so somebody will want to do that,” Sen. Fitzgerald said.

In a statement in April, a spokesman for the Unified Government stated that The Woodlands would have a significant tax advantage over the Hollywood Casino at Kansas Speedway if it received the 22 percent rate. That is because the casino had to guarantee $250 million in investment at the time it was built, the spokesman said.

The UG spokesman said part of the reason the casino decided to postpone building a hotel was that there was a bill in the Legislature that would allow The Woodlands to receive the same rate as the Hollywood Casino on slots gaming.

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