Along with other Ford County residents, Dodge City Commissioner Brian Weber was eager to find out which developer would win the right to build and manage the county's casino.

    Now he knows the answer.

    On Friday, the Kansas Racing and Gaming Commission tapped the Olathe-based company Butler National Services Corp. to develop the state-owned resort-style casino. The company has proposed an $87.5 million casino-and-hotel complex, which will include restaurants and other amenities, on the western outskirts of town near U.S. Highway 50.


Along with other Ford County residents, Dodge City Commissioner Brian Weber was eager to find out which developer would win the right to build and manage the county's casino.
    Now he knows the answer.
    On Friday, the Kansas Racing and Gaming Commission tapped the Olathe-based company Butler National Services Corp. to develop the state-owned resort-style casino. The company has proposed an $87.5 million casino-and-hotel complex, which will include restaurants and other amenities, on the western outskirts of town near U.S. Highway 50.
    Weber said the decision means that city and county officials can move forward with plans for the complex, which will include developing an adjacent special events center and providing roads, water and sewer service for the complex.
    "I'm excited, and I'm glad that the gaming commission made a decision," he said in a phone interview Sunday.
    Weber said he thought the Butler proposal and the one from its rival, the Wichita-based Dodge City Resort and Gaming Co., both had their strong points. But he said he also thought the two proposals had some weaknesses.
    Butler still has several months to go before it can begin building the complex. The company will first undergo a background check and approval by the Kansas Racing and Gaming Commission, which must complete its work by Dec. 6.
    In the meantime, the company will work on detailed architectural and engineering designs for the first phase of the two-phase project.   
    Butler President Clark Stewart told the Globe on Friday that the first phase will likely be completed within a year, and the second phase will be finished by early 2011.
    Under Kansas' expanded-gaming law, the state will actually own the Ford County casino but entrust the daily operations to Butler. The company has selected the Las Vegas-based Navegante Group Inc., which operates casinos in Nevada, to manage the facility for three years.
    The state will receive at least 22 percent of the casino's annual gaming revenues, with another 2 percent earmarked for a fund to help compulsive gamblers. City and county government will each receive 1.5 percent, and the developer and manager will keep the rest. Those percentages will increase if the casino meets certain revenue targets.
    Butler has proposed earmarking part of its share of the revenues for the Mariah Fund, an independent organization that would provide financial support for tourism attractions in 22 western Kansas counties.
    Dodge City/Ford County Development Corp. executive director Joann Knight said she thought Butler had the better proposal, partly because it included the creation of the Mariah Fund.
    "I really liked Butler's proposal and the Mariah Fund," she said. "And the opportunity to work with the existing tourism entities and kind of how they have planned to work all throughout southwest Kansas and really enhance tourism in that avenue."
    Rep. Pat George, R-Dodge City, also liked the idea of using a portion of the casino’s gaming revenues to help other local attractions.
    "This will be truly a southwest Kansas project, not just a Dodge City or Ford County project," he said. "It'll be good for everyone out here. And hopefully, along with many other things that will be going on over the next couple of years, it'll help people from eastern Kansas recognize that us folks out here in the western part of the state have a lot of good things going for us."

Reach Eric Swanson at (620) 408-9917 or e-mail him at eric.swanson@dodgeglobe.com.