A bill that would help reopen The Woodlands racetrack in Kansas City, Kan., was voted down Wednesday as concerns about the bill’s consequences won out over attempts to give the shuttered racetrack another shot at slot machines.
The lack of support, and possible legal trouble mentioned by the House budget committee during its debate, probably ended the bill’s chances of passing this session.
Had the bill become law, it would have lowered the state’s take from slot machines that tracks like The Woodlands could add to draw in crowds.
Supporters have said the lowered tax rate for slots could lead to the revival of racetracks around the state where horse and greyhound racing would be held.
Rep. Larry Campbell, an Olathe Republican, said, “I cringe when I drive by Woodlands and see it closed.”
But he said he couldn’t support the bill this year, saying he was erring on the side of caution.
“I just don’t know what our return is,” Campbell said, “and the threat of potential loss, there is some threat there.”
Phil Ruffin, the Wichita businessman who bought The Woodlands racetrack in 2015, said at the time that he would not begin construction on the facility until the Legislature lowers the tax rate on slots.
The state’s cut from the slot machines at racetracks, according to the current law, would send 40 percent of net electronic gaming machine income to a state fund.
Under the bill that failed Wednesday, that rate would have been slashed to 22 percent.
Attempts in other years to pass a similar bill have also failed.
The Unified Government of Wyandotte County and Kansas City, Kan., opposed the bill this session, as did Hollywood Casino at Kansas Speedway, a neighboring gambling location in Wyandotte County.
Testimony provided to lawmakers noted that Hollywood believed the bill may violate contracts with them and other casinos and could lead to legal issues between the state and the various casinos scattered across Kansas.
Rep. Sean Tarwater, a Stilwell Republican, said the legislation was a “jobs bill.”
“There is no risk, there is no downside,” Tarwater said.
He said The Woodlands would bring “thousands and thousands of people” to the track in Wyandotte County.
“You build a horse track up there, I’m going to go to that horse track,” Tarwater said “And then after that horse track closes for the night, I’m going to go over to that casino.”
The Woodlands has been closed since 2008.