Group ramps up efforts to bring slots to Wichita Greyhound Park

By: Jason Tarr Email
By: Jason Tarr Email

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VALLEY CENTER, Kan. -- A local organization is ramping up its efforts to get a new vote in Sedgwick County on bringing slot machines to the Wichita Greyhound Park.

Owner Phil Ruffin Sr. has said he'll invest anywhere from $50 to $100 million in the facility if voters approve the park having slot machines. Ruffin closed the Wichita Greyhound Park in 2007 after a similar referendum failed.

In the past several weeks, organization "Wichita Wins" has put up signs around Valley Center that have caught some motorists' attention. The signs say "Let Us Vote." Underneath, it says "Valley Center School District: $770,000."

"That $770,000 to Valley Center School District is an estimate of new property tax revenue that's based on the investment that would be made if we are allowed to reopen the park," Wichita Wins spokesperson Beth King said.

The signs focus on Valley Center in part because of how close the Wichita Greyhound Park is to that community, King said. But she says the Valley Center School District wouldn't be the only one that would benefit.

"There's close to $400,000 that would go to the Sedgwick County Fire District 1, there's additional property tax revenue that would go to the library commission, and certainly property tax revenue for Sedgwick County," King said.

In addition to putting up signs, the group has also just started a website and a Facebook page, both under the slogan, "Bring Back the Track."

King says some people have said the '07 referendum was a bit confusing, so she says as the organization increases these efforts, it has refocused its approach.

"Right now, we are asking the legislature just for the right to vote on slots at the Greyhound Park. (It's) much more direct, much more determined," King said.

That process would have to begin in the legislature.

For the Wichita Greyhound Park to reopen, three things would have to happen: the legislature would have to approve a new vote, Sedgwick County Commissioners would then have to put the question on a ballot, and then voters would have approve it.

"If that vote passes, the park will be reopened with lots of new property tax revenue and gaming revenue that would go to Sedgwick County, King said.

The idea has been mentioned in some circles in the legislature, but so far hasn't gained much traction. No bill has been formally introduced about a vote, according to sources at the statehouse.

King says she believes that would change if more people got in touch with their state legislators and county commissioners.

"We're not asking people to do anything extraordinary at this point. We're not asking people to take sides, "King said. "We are just asking them to help us communicate that we would like to vote."

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