An application for a proposed casino one mile north of Interstate 44 at U.S. Highway 166/400 was rejected by the Kansas Lottery Tuesday.

An application for a proposed casino one mile north of Interstate 44 at U.S. Highway 166/400 was rejected by the Kansas Lottery on Tuesday.


The lottery sent a letter to the Ozark Trail Gaming LLC to tell the group that its application would be rejected because it “fails to demonstrate that the applicant meets the minimum requirements to become a Lottery Gaming Facility Manager.”


Notably, the letter notes that there were several reasons for the rejection. Some of those reasons include no information indicating that Ozark Trail “has access to financial resources to support the activities” required to run a casino and that there is no evidence that the applicant has any Class III gaming experience, as required by the Kansas Expanded Lottery Act.


“There are three thresholds that all applicants must prove to be considered a viable application,” said Keith Kocher, Kansas Lottery director of gaming facilities. “First, that they have sufficient access to finances to support the operation. Second, that they have paid their taxes. That’s pretty easy to check. Third, that the group has Class III gaming experience with at least three consecutive years of experience.”


Because Ozark Trail Gaming’s application was rejected, it keeps the application process in the Southeast Zone open at least until Jan. 19, 2010. Ozark Trail may submit a new application before then or appeal the decision.


Robert G. Knight, a member of the Ozark Trail Gaming LLC, said that he held “no animus” toward Kansas Lottery and that from what he had heard, the decision was justified.


“What they are saying is true,” Knight said. “We were working on the financial package as recently as [Tuesday]. What we were told by the state is correct. My only response is if anyone in the state of Kansas deserves a casino, it’s the southeast corner of the state.”


Knight said that the financing is not finalized at this time and the group is still pursuing funding for the project. He also thanked former Sen. Jim Barone for doing “the yeoman’s work” in getting southeast Kansas considered as a gaming zone.


Further, Knight said that the threshold for starting a casino should be lowered, as a $250 million investment in a casino is a tough barrier to overcome.


“It’s in everyone’s interest,” Knight said. “It’s in the state’s interest and it’s definitely in the interest of that part of the state. Sharing a revenue base is a heck of a lot better than nothing.”


Ozark Trail Gaming, Knight said, would likely complete the financing before either refiling an application or filing an appeal. It’s worth doing, Knight said, for a region he has “fallen in love with.”


“I’m convinced there are opportunities there,” Knight said. “I can’t imagine anyone more supportive of gaming than the Cherokee County Commissioners. It’s really one of the most beautiful areas in Kansas.”


Ultimately, Knight said that the Kansas Lottery was “doing what they should be doing” since the financing was not secured. 


However, he also said efforts would continue and the group was not giving up on a casino in the area.


“I still think that there may be a way to get it done,” Knight said. “We’re not there yet. It’s hand-to-hand combat for every dollar. We’ll see what happens. I have a tremendous appreciation for that part of the state. It’s the prettiest part of Kansas. It’s just amazing. I will do everything I can to be a part of it. They deserve it there.”


Andrew Nash can be reached at andrew.nash@morningsun.net.