Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Lottery revenue no sure bet

Democrats and Republicans alike were just falling all over themselves two years ago to get a gambling bill passed. So desperate were they to make the state of Kansas the proud new owner of four destination casinos that suddenly the word "lottery" morphed into "casino."

Now two years later the state's unable to pay its bills and is looking at tax increases to make ends meet. So, how's that gambling revenue working out for ya?

Not so well. When the bill was passed, revenue estimates were around $200 million a year. But that assumed casinos would be, you know, built. That part of the plan hasn't worked out so well.

The only casino under construction is in Dodge City, the smallest of the four projects. The southeast Kansas casino got one company on the hook who promptly withdrew. A recent second application opening didn't get any applicants.

Same for the Kansas City and Sumner County casinos. Nobody felt like hopping on that train the first time around. Now they have some applicants, but will they stick around? The state hasn't had much luck in that department.

It seems when the Governor and Legislators decided Kansas should be in the casino business they forgot one important part of the plan, that you need casinos to make money. Now lawmakers are once again proposing using gambling revenue to fix the budget shortfall.

Sounds like a great plan, but I wonder if they've worked out the kinks from last time. Like actually getting a casino built. Maybe Democrats and Republicans alike would be better off to spend their time focusing on cutting the budget than trying to find funny money to plug the hole.

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