New policy makes Phil Ruffin only competitor for Wichita historical horseracing facility license

July 12, 2023
By
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The Kansas Racing and Gaming Commission will still only award the license if Ruffin's proposal qualifies based on the Kansas Expanded Lottery Act.

The Kansas Racing and Gaming Commission (KRGC) has disqualified a finalist in the process for who will be awarded the license to operate a historical horseracing facility. A new policy means that Wichita billionaire, Phill Ruffin, is now the only applicant remaining.

Ruffin purchased the 72-acre Wichita Greyhound Park in 2018 from Sedgwick County and plans to build Golden Circle Casino in its place. A team including Wichita developer George Laham and Boyd Gaming, were due to present their competing plans yesterday, but a closed-door KRGC session cemented a new policy that disqualified the group.

The inclusion of Boyd Gaming, operator of Kansas Star Casino in Mulvane, was what caused the disqualification.

KRGC Chairman David Moses said the new policy provided required clarification of the purpose of the Kansas Expanded Lottery Act. This law allows casino resorts in four gaming zones throughout Kansas.

Moses said “We learned that the legislative intent from the original gaming law was that there only be one facility per zone for a manager and the governor is also of that opinion.

"It became apparent that the policy should be adopted to be consistent with the legislative intent and The Governor’s understanding as to the prohibition.”

The decision on whether to grant Ruffin and his team the license will be made later this week. His proposal for The Golden Circle Casino, however, has received letters of support from: Kansas House Speaker and Wichita Republican, Dan Hawkins; Park City city government; former Sedgwick County Sheriff, Mike Hill and former Wichita City Council member, Sharon Fearey.

Ruffin owns properties in downtown Wichita, as well as Treasure Island and Circus Circus hotels and casinos in Las Vegas. However, he will not be automatically awarded the license.

Moses said, “The law is very clear that the Racing and Gaming Commission doesn’t have to give a license to the last standing applicant. They have to give it to an applicant that qualifies.”

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