Kansas Racing and Gaming Commission Approves Phil Ruffin’s Group’s Casino Application

The Kansas Racing and Gaming Commission (KRGC) voted on July 13 to award Phil Ruffin the state’s single license to launch Golden Circle, a horse racing casino.

It will be located in Wichita Greyhound Park and offer Ruffin an opportunity to operate a casino where the park stood before its 2007 closure. Besides, the proposed casino can install 1,000 historical horse racing (HHR) machines.

The Legislature’s 2022 Gaming Decision

The state’s Legislature passed a law in 2022 that legalized sports betting. Still, it allowed the Kansas Racing and Gaming Commission to issue one gaming permit in Sedgwick County to run 1,000 HHR machines. This caught the attention of three groups that placed their bids.

Even so, Treadwell’s group changed their mind before the three-day hearing period that lapsed on July 13, 2023. Boyd Gaming Inc and George Laham, a Wichita developer, led the other group that lost the license bid on the hearing’s first day. The KRGC formed a policy that prevents a company from running a gaming property and HHR gambling in one gaming zone.

Boyd Gaming’s disqualification occurred because it runs the Kansas Star Casino. Yet, the Golden Circle Casino application got support letters from Dan Hawkins (Wichita Republican and Kansas House Speaker), Sharon Fearey (former Wichita City Council member), Pete Meitzner (Sedgwick County Commission’s Chairman), Paul Treadwell and Mike Hill (former Sedgwick County Sheriff).

Treadwell initially sought a permit to install gaming machines at Towne West Square before withdrawing his application. David Moses, the KRGC’s chairman, stated that Ruffin’s group convinced the board that they can successfully operate a HHR property.

Wichita Greyhound Park’s Upgrade

Ruffin wants to spend $128 million transforming Wichita Park into a three-story casino. His renovation plan includes adding hotel and entertainment choices, Gilley’s Dance Hall and Saloon; he anticipated the casino will be complete in 14 months.

The Wichita resident will be Golden Circle Casino’s general manager once it opens. He added that it is a historic building that has existed for over three decades. But they will perform a lot of renovation work during its upgrade.

Ruffin said that the casino will have several restaurants offering smoothies, pizza, and a wide array of delicacies. Their executive chef, currently based in Las Vegas, will come to train other workers. The mogul wants to be under budget and complete the project on time.

The gaming venue will offer 300 construction jobs and about 300 permanent jobs. It will have three floors for entertainment, horse race betting through premier tracks’ simulcast, and an over 100-room hotel and nightclub. But Ruffin reiterated that Golden Circle won’t revive greyhound racing.

Ruffin intends to build a 110-bet hotel once the casino launches. Golden Circle’s HHR machines will allow gamers to watch or replay the races that they wagered on. The machines will use a database with over 2,000 races to make random race selections.

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