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Did the France family just lose their antitrust lawsuit? There's a story flying under the radar out in Kansas that the powers that be within NASCAR would prefer you didn't know about - at least until the deal is done, that is - but it illuminates everything about what's really driving NASCAR these days and why the fundamental changes that really need to be made to the NASCAR circus are not only not being made, but are being swept aside in the interest of corporate greed.
The reports trickling out of Kansas are revealing, to say the least. It seems there's a bid out to operate the state-owned casino in Wyandotte County. According to the Associated Press, a 2007 state law provides for four casinos, including one in Wyandotte County. The law calls for the Lottery Gaming Facility Review Board to choose the winner based on which applicant would bring the most revenue to the state, increase tourism and be in the state's best interest. Kansas Entertainment LLC is in competition with three other bidders to capture that prize - which is a staggering 15-year deal. The prime mover behind Kansas Entertainment LLC? None other than Lesa France Kennedy, president and vice chairperson of the Board of Directors for International Speedway Corporation.
In the course of the bid process, it seems that the president of the Kansas Speedway, Jeff Boerger, has all but assured the state that if Kansas Entertainment LLC is awarded the license to operate the Wyandotte casino, the Kansas Speedway will be awarded another Sprint Cup date, no problem (the speedway is part of the partnership). Boerger also promised that the speedway would build a 2-1/4-mile road course in its infield, designed for the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series and events by various sports car clubs. Boerger said the track has approval from its parent company, International Speedway Corp., to construct the road course. He also said he saw little problem in transferring a Sprint Cup race from one of the other 11 ISC tracks to Kansas. "We have moved races from one track to the other in the past so that's why I'm confident we can do it," he said. Kansas Entertainment also plans to put a $705-million Hard Rock Hotel and Casino at the No. 2 turn of the 1-1/2-mile D-shaped oval track.
Oh, but that's not all. The speedway supposedly also has a letter of commitment from Camping World (a prominent NASCAR sponsor), the world's largest retailer of RV equipment, to hold its annual "Heart of America RV and Outdoor Rally" there starting in 2010. The rally would bring at least 6,000 people to the area, Boerger said, and generate an annual economic impact of some $10 million. But all of it - the rally, the hotel, the road course, and most important, the second Sprint Cup race date - is contingent on the state choosing the Kansas Entertainment LLC partnership over the three other bidders. "This is not pie in the sky. This is not wishful thinking. This is something you can bank that's going to happen," Boerger said, as reported by the Associated Press. "These are real economic opportunities for the state." Cozy, no? More at Autoextremist on why the France family may have just shot themselves in the foot.
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