Some local reaction positive to news of Woodlands’ sale

Reaction to the news that The Woodlands has been sold was positive in some parts of Kansas City, Kan.

The Woodlands was reported sold to Phil Ruffin, who also owns another dog track in Kansas, and is an owner of a casino in Las Vegas. A story published July 16 in the Wichita Eagle reported the sale.

The Woodlands, a horse and dog racing track at 9700 Leavenworth Road, has been closed since 2008 when a new gaming law in Kansas would have required the track to give the state more of its gaming proceeds from slots than the state-owned casinos give the state.

“I think the opening of it is long overdue,” said Lou Braswell, executive director of the Leavenworth Road Association. “I also know that the mayor has already publicly said that he would block it reopening because it wouldn’t be fair to Hollywood Casino, but my reasoning in that, is they don’t limit how many automotive repair shops could be open, so why does Hollywood Casino have a monopoly?

“I am anxious for it to reopen and I am not a gambler, I just think it’s long overdue,” Braswell said.

She said many people she has talked to in this area would be happy to see it reopen, and she believes they would support it.

“If and when The Woodlands opened, the sad thing is that young Dr. John Swanson (who recently died) won’t be alive to see it, because he fought hard for it, too,” Braswell said.

A bill in the state Legislature carried by Sen. Steve Fitzgerald would have allowed The Woodlands to pay the same percentage in gaming tax as the state-owned casinos; however, the bill did not pass this year. It could come back next session for discussion. Earlier this year, the UG was not in favor of this bill.

Mayor Mark Holland recently remarked that even if the state passes a bill lowering the gaming tax on The Woodlands, that the UG still doesn’t have to allow it in the community. The UG would have to approve a special use permit for The Woodlands. As part of its lobbying platform earlier this year, the UG has taken a stance that it supports the current law, not the change to a lower gaming tax rate for The Woodlands.

The mayor said in June that that he couldn’t support issuing a special use permit for The Woodlands that would undermine the casino and its 900 jobs. He said he would support The Woodlands reopening under the current law, where it would pay a higher gaming tax on its slots than the casinos do. The casino has stated that it was unfair to allow the dog and horse track to have the same gaming tax rate on slots because the casino had to make a minimum $225 million investment commitment, while the racetrack did not.

This year, Sen. Fitzgerald’s bill got out of the Senate Federal and State Affairs Committee, and was passed in the Senate, but not in the House. Last year, the same bill was defeated on the Senate floor.

So far, there have been no indications of a sale yet in the public records on file at the register of deeds office, Wyandotte County Register of Deeds Nancy Burns said this morning. It takes some time for the paperwork to be completed and then filed.

See earlier stories, http://wyandottedaily.com/last-minute-wrangling-in-topeka-draws-comments-at-ug-meeting/ and http://wyandottedaily.com/bill-approved-in-senate-committee-to-help-woodlands-reopen/.

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