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As Lawmakers Seek Funding Options, Gambling Gains Support

21 June 2005

Las Vegas Sun

TOPEKA, Kansas -- Hoping to make some headway before the start of a special legislative session, a Senate committee suggested Monday that expanded gambling could provide the needed extra money for public schools.

But Senate leaders say the trick is to expand gambling enough to raise more money, but not to the point where more lawmakers will be against it than for it.

"The Legislature will be more inclined to go with a scaled-back version, limiting it to those communities already losing large amounts of money to out-of-state casinos," said Senate Majority Leader Derek Schmidt, R-Independence.

The discussions about gambling came the same day senators began discussing how to distribute additional money for schools.

The Legislature is scheduled Wednesday to begin its first special session since 1989. The Kansas Supreme Court earlier this month said lawmakers must increase school funding by $143 million for the next school year by July 1.

The Legislature already upped the annual education budget by $142 million, to nearly $2.9 billion, but the court said that wasn't enough.

Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, who called the special session, suggested legislators consider expanded gambling, but didn't offer any specifics.

"The governor has made this a make-or-break time for gaming by raising it to the top of the session's agenda," Schmidt said.

Senate Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dwayne Umbarger asked for drafts of three proposals for his panel to consider before Wednesday. All three require voter approval in counties where expanded gambling would occur.

One proposal allows casinos in Wyandotte County and southeast Kansas, plus slot machines at dog and horse tracks in Anthony, Eureka, Frontenac, Kansas City and Wichita.

The other is the same, except it specifies Crawford County in southeast Kansas and requires other counties wanting gambling to pass a referendum before bringing the issue to the Legislature.

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