Penn National Gaming eyeing Galena for casino

Penn National Gaming eyeing Galena for casino

Penn National Gaming eyeing Galena for casino

Cherokee County may be the home for Big Brutus, but if plans work themselves out, a destination based casino may become a sure bet for the Galena area.

Richard Klemp, vice president of government operations for Penn National Gaming, says the Cherokee County area is a valid spot to help provide a boost to the county economy.

“Cherokee County is the poorest county in Kansas,” he said. “There is a need for economic development in the southeast Kansas region.”

In order to get a casino proposal on the local ballots, the measure must first pass in the state legislature.

“There have been several bills proposed over the past 12 years,” said Kansas State Rep. Doug Gatewood (R-Columbus). “We’re just getting the details worked out.”

One of the reasons Penn National Gaming is trying to get a casino in Galena is because of the expansion of the gaming facilities in northeast Oklahoma.

“We are wanting the opportunity to bring the entertainment dollars into Kansas,” Gatewood said. “It would create 1,700 job openings in ancillary positions.”

The proposed bill included an upfront payment on the number of machines.

“There would be an immediate impact to the state,” Gatewood said. “It would probably take about one year for the casino to be in operation before the local area would feel an impact.”

The legislation, if passed, would not only affect the Galena area, but also would bring the possibility of new life to the twice-defunct Camptown Greyhound Park in Frontenac.

“Both Camptown and a destination-based casino would allow people to determine if they want to have gaming in their county,” Gatewood said. “Other benefits would include helping to lower property taxes in Cherokee County by generating an additional $2 million for property taxes and lowering the mill levy.”

In the end, Gatewood said the question of having a casino in Galena comes down to choice.

“The people of Kansas deserve the right to determine whether or not the entertainment dollars being spent in other states should be spent in Kansas,” he said.

Galena resident Lee Howard expressed concern with a proposed casino.

“We need good-paying jobs in the Galena area, which makes me be in favor of the building of the casino,” he said. “But first, we need to find out the impact of the casino on the crime and divorce rate.

“And we need to study the effect on the environment with the building of this large of a casino near Galena.”

Although gaming legislation has failed over the past 12 years, Klemp believes the 2007 legislative session will be more favorable.

“It’s won’t be an election year,” Klemp said.