Cherokee County in Southeast Kansas Wants to Build the $130 Million Castle Rock Casino
Representatives for Castle Rock Casino Resort lobbied the Kansas legislature this week to license a $130 million casino development in Cherokee County, Kansas. The casino, if approved, will sit one mile north of I-44 directly on US400.
That location will place the casino within driving range of Missouri, Arkansas, and Oklahoma. As the most elaborate casino in Southeast Kansas, it should attract most gamblers from the nearby population centers of Joplin, Missouri and Springfield, Missouri.
Friedmutter Group and WhiteSand Gaming
The group lobbying for the plan appeared before the Cherokee County Board of Commissioners this week. The developers are the Las Vegas-based Friedmutter Group, which has a famous list of clients: Caesars Entertainment, MGM Resorts, the Station Casinos, the Hard Rock Casinos, the Cosmopolitan, and the Ritz Carlton.
A global consulting firm with offices in Las Vegas and Atlantic City, WhiteSand Gaming, will consult on the construction process. Once finished, the American Casino and Entertainment Company will manage the property. The American Casino and Entertainment Company managers four casinos in the Las Vegas and wider Nevada area.
Sal Scheri Quote
In advocating for approval from the county officials, WhiteSand president and CEO Saverio “Sal” R. Scheri said, “Our initial studies reveal that this casino will generate millions of dollars in tax revenue for Southeast Kansas, while creating hundreds of new jobs. As a direct competitor to Oklahoma casinos, Castle Rock Casino is perfectly placed to maximize the potential of a gaming facility in this region.”
The release from Mr. Scheri continued, “From exquisite dining to exciting entertainment and a modern hotel, Castle Rock will be one of the top casinos in the Midwest. With a planned total investment in excess of $130 million, more than twice the minimum required, the proposed development is larger in scope than other announced casinos in the area.”
Kansas state politicians would like to build casinos that can compete with Oklahoma’s significant Native American gaming industry. Many Native American tribes were relocated to Oklahoma during the 19th century, so many tribes exist inside the state. Oklahoma has 142 land-based gaming establishments, which ranks it behind only Nevada, California, Washington, and Florida for the most gaming establishments among U.S. states.
Competing with Oklahoma
Placing a casino in southeastern Kansas will allow the state to compete for gamblers from those lucrative gaming states. While Oklahoma has some of the biggest gaming operations in the world (yes–the world), those operations are found in the far southern portion of the state.
The Winstar Casino in Thackerville, controlled by the Chickasaw Nation, and the Chocktaw Casino in Durant, controlled by the Chocktaw Nation, have more space on their gaming floors than most Las Vegas Strip casinos. Those casinos exist to draw in high rollers and mass market gamblers from the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex. Texas banned casino gambling, which enriched Oklahoma’s Indian tribes, because DFW gamblers flock to the nearby casinos for gaming. That doesn’t mean Kansas cannot poach Oklahoma gamblers, though.
Perhaps the more important location is Missouri, because its population is larger and has more money to gamble. While Missouri has 14 casinos, it is still not saturated the way states in the northeast are. With more wide-open spaces, some parts of Missouri are going to be closer to Castle Rock.
Brandon and Rodney Steven
The owners of the proposed casino are a study in how closely-connected Kansas and Missouri are, economically. Brandon and Rodney Steven are the Wichita businessmen behind the push for the new casino. The brothers were trying to buy a minor league hockey franchise in Joplin, Missouri a year ago. Now, they want to bring a casino to Kansas which will be a mile away from the states of Oklahoma and Missouri.
People should not expect too much traffic from the Kansas City area. In 2014, Kansas City’s casino industry shrank for the 6th straight year. The casino generated about $750 million in revenues throughout 2014, but that total was down 4.3% from the previous year. With Kansas City’s gamblers no longer appearing in the city’s casinos as often, it would be unrealistic to suspect those gamblers would drive further to gamble at Castle Rock.