The state has tapped Butler National Service Corp. to develop and manage Ford County's casino.


    The Kansas Lottery Gaming Facility Review Board voted 5-2 Friday to choose the Olathe-based company, which plans to build an $87.5 million casino-and-hotel complex on the western outskirts of Dodge City near U.S. Highway 50, The company was originally going to start with a temporary casino in the same location, but it has since backed away from that plan and will divide its permanent facility into two phases instead.


The state has tapped Butler National Service Corp. to develop and manage Ford County's casino.
    The Kansas Lottery Gaming Facility Review Board voted 5-2 Friday to choose the Olathe-based company, which plans to build an $87.5 million casino-and-hotel complex on the western outskirts of Dodge City near U.S. Highway 50, The company was originally going to start with a temporary casino in the same location, but it has since backed away from that plan and will divide its permanent facility into two phases instead.
     Butler President Clark Stewart said he was pleased that the board had chosen his company.
    "I believe they paid attention and picked the best of the candidates," he said.
   Both Butler and its rival, the Wichita-based Dodge City Resort and Gaming Co., had faced repeated questions about their ability to finance their projects in the wake of economic turmoil in the marketplace. After questioning both companies last week, the review board gave them until Friday to present additional evidence showing that they had the finances to make their projects work.
    But Stewart assured the board on Friday that his company had the necessary financing, including a firm $20 million commitment from the Kaw Valley Bank and a $45 million pledge from Merrill Lynch for the second phase of the project.
   "Basically, they're saying that they have enough confidence in the management of this group and the design of the project that they're willing to issue a highly confident letter to that effect," he said.
   Stewart said that Kaw Valley and Merrill Lynch will have a 35 percent equity stake in the project, and both investors are comfortable with that position. He added that those investors' commitments will give Butler a $10 million cushion to complete the first and second phases of its project.
    Dodge City Resort and Gaming President Steve Joseph said that his company had received an additional financial commitment from Equity Bank of Wichita and Kansas City, which had previously loaned the company $6.4 million. But he added that his company had enough money to finance its casino without outside help.
    "We don't need financing from a bank, as I told you over and over," he said. "We can do this without financing. We are in the enviable position that we will have banks knocking on our door to lend us money."
    After a 45-minute closed session to review both companies' confidential financial information, several review board members said they favored Butler over Dodge City Resort.
  One board member, Jack Brier, noted that Butler had secured another source of financing for its project in the past week.
    "I am satisfied that Butler National can, in fact, finance the project as it is described to us," he said, "And because they are investing more, I intend to make the motion to approve Butler National."
  The two dissenting board members, Jim Bergfalk and Chairman Matt All, said they thought Dodge City Resort and Gaming's conservative approach to financing was a better fit for southwest Kansas.