By Kim Hynes (DODGE CITY, Kan.)
At one o'clock Tuesday, Dodge City made history. It opened a western themed state owned casino, the first in Kansas. "It's amazing that we're the first ones to open. But it took our whole community to do it," said President of Boot Hill Gaming Jeff Thorpe.
Ten years ago, Thorpe and other residents came up with the idea of using gaming to attract tourists. They dreamt of a few slot machines and gaming tables with a western theme. He says they never imagined they'd be standing in a $90 million facility with 584 slot machines and 12 table games.
Now the community wants to see if it's been worth the wait. Walking through the door, people commented that it was bigger than they expected. Other's called the building beautiful.
Ralph Nothstine was first in the door. "I like to gamble, it's fun. You put a budget on yourself and that's it," he said. Nothstine says he'll spend a lot of his time and entertainment dollars at Boot Hill. "Why do we want to go down to Las Vegas when this is here."
Roger and Lenore Samuelson usually drive from Ellsworth to Oklahoma when they want to gamble. "Once, twice a month. It depended if we got bored we went for a road trip," Lenore Samuelson said. Their road trip was 50 miles shorter by coming to Dodge and the money they spent stays in Kansas. "Too bad more people don't realize it's a good thing. It could help a lot of problems with Kansas financially," she said.
Whether Samuelson wins of loses, the state will make money off of gambling in Dodge City. The state, city and county will all get gaming revenue. State law also requires 2% of gaming revenue go to problem gambling.
The casino will close at eleven o'clock Tuesday night and re-open with a ribbon cutting by Governor Mark Parkinson at eleven Wednesday morning. After that, the casino will be open 24/7.
The casino already hired close to 300 people and still has about 30 openings. A 124-room hotel is under construction and will open in early 2012. Phase 2 will also include a salon and spa, a 20,000 square foot conference and entertainment facility, and room for additional gaming. It's required to be finished by early 2012.
The Boot Hill Casino is the first to open under the state's 2007 expanded gambling law.
In Sumner County, plans are on hold while developers revise their proposal. They want to compete should an Indian casino open in Park City. Once that's done, the plans will go to the lottery review board for a final vote.
In southeast Kansas, the lottery rejected an application from a group seeking to build and manage a casino in Cherokee County.
In northeast Kansas, the review board approved a $385 million casino at the Kansas Speedway in Wyandotte County.