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Ozak Trail Submits Bid for a Southeast Kansas Casino

An organization that includes a former Wichita mayor submitted a proposal on October 19th, 2009 for a southeast Kansas casino facility, surprising Kansas officials who had anticipated until spring for a casino plan to emerge.

Ozak Trail Gaming LLC was the only prospective casino developer to file a casino application on the October 19th deadline for a contract with the Kansas Lottery.

The Wichita group promises to invest a total of $225 million in a casino facility about one mile north of Interstate 44, near the state's border with Oklahoma, in southeast Cherokee County.

The Kansas Lottery had not seen any interest in a southeast Kansas casino facility since September last year, when a casino developer picked to construct and manage one, Penn National Gaming Incorporated of Wyomissing, Pennsylvania backed out of its plans.

Penn National cited potential gaming competition from a casino facility opened by the Quapaw Indian Tribe just across the Oklahoma border in July 2008. But Bob Knight, a former Wichita Mayor and an Ozark Trail principal, said that his group believes a second casino facility would still be profitable-and that two casinos could attract enough players and visitors to the area to benefit both gaming facilities.

Under the Kansas gaming law, the state lottery would own the rights to the new gaming. That gives lottery officials until January 19th, 2010 to negotiate a proposed gaming contract with Ozark Trail. If the Kansas Lottery Commission approves a contract, a state casino review board will decide on whether the casino project can proceed or not.

Before October 19th, lottery officials said that they had not heard of any serious bid in a casino facility in southeast casino. The Commission even decided last week to extend the casino application period to as late as April 16th, 2010-if no casino proposals emerged before the deadline. The lottery's executive director, Ed Van Petten said that nobody saw this new proposal coming. Knight said that the group still has not decided whether it will construct a hotel with its casino facility during the first phase of its construction.

He also declined to give details about how the casino plan will be financed because they still have a lot of work to do. Van Petten said that the group will probably have to borrow the money for the first phase of the construction. Kansas Lottery officials said that the casino facility would offer nine hundred slot machines and thirty casino table games.

Knight has been previously involved in unsuccessful casino gaming proposals for Dodge City and Wichita areas. Before the 2007 gaming law permitting state-owned casino facilities, he was working with the Iowa tribe in the northeastern portion of Kansas to bring a casino facility to the Wichita area.

Knight also served as Wichita's elected mayor from 1989-2003, except for 1992-1995, when he the commerce secretary of the state. He also sought the Republican nomination for governor in 2002 but failed. Other gaming investors in Ozark Trail are Wichita lawyer Henry Blase, a trust that Blase manages and Wichita investment banker Theron Frogatte.


04 November 2009
News Submitted by:
Jessica Kellerman

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