Prairie Band Potawatomi take control of casino from Harrah's 7-07

MAYETTA, Kan. (AP) - Management of the Prairie Band Potawatomi casino
in Mayetta changed hands with a symbolic passing of a baton.

Mike Kenny, senior vice president and general manager at Harrah's,
gave Tribal Chairwoman Tracy Stanhoff a ceremonial baton on Sunday to
mark the occasion and the tribe's goal greater self-sufficiency.
Harrah's had managed the casino for the American Indian nation for 9
1/2 years.

"This is a day we've been working toward for 10 years," Kenny said.
"Thank you very much for the past 10 years. God bless you."

Added Stanhoff, "This is a great day. We have come a long way."

She expects the casino, which employs 1,200, to continue its growth
in Jackson County. Now, the tribe will retain a portion of the casino
and resort's profits that previously went to Harrah's as part of the
management agreement. The amount was not disclosed.

Warren Wahweotten Jr., tribal council member, called Sunday a
"milestone in our culture and our history. This is awesome." The
additional revenue will be reinvested in the business and the tribe,
he said.

"We'll see an increase," he said. "But we're going to invest it wisely."

In the past, the tribe has used casino profits to build a health care
facility, provide senior housing and repair roads and bridges.
Wahweotten said the new benefits package for casino workers was as
good as that provided by Harrah's, if not better.

"We're keeping everybody working," he said.

There are four American Indian casinos in northeast Kansas. However,
that competition is expected to increase in part to the passage of
expanded gambling legislation this spring by the state.

The law permits lottery-owned casinos in four areas - Ford County,
Wyandotte County, either Cherokee or Crawford County, and either
Sedgwick or Sumner County. The law also permits slot machines at race
tracks in Kansas City, Wichita and Frontenac.

Prairie Band Potawatomi officials have threatened to sue the state.
They argue the law violates a section of the Kansas Constitution that
permits only a state-owned and operated lottery.

In January 1994, the Kansas Supreme Court ruled that the term
"lottery" is broad enough to include slots and casino games. But
critics contend the state must handle the day-to-day management of
the new gambling, not delegate it to a private company.

Gov. Kathleen Sebelius has urged Attorney General Paul Morrison to
consider filing a lawsuit to expedite a court ruling.

Rey Kitchkumme, tribal council vice chairman, will work to expand its
share of gaming in Kansas. The hotel rooms and convention center make
it not just a place to gamble, but also a resort, he said.