Kansas: Mogul Phil Ruffin’s plan to open casino at Wichita Greyhound Park approved by regulator

Casino mogul Phil Ruffin has secured a major victory in his nearly two-decade-long battle to bring a casino to the Wichita Greyhound Park. The Kansas Racing and Gaming Commission cleared the way on Thursday for Ruffin’s Golden Circle Casino to run 1,000 historical horse racing (HHR) machines at the location, granting them the state’s only license for such operation.

“We are ecstatic with the news,” expressed Phil Ruffin Jr., who will serve as the general manager of Golden Circle, as per The Wichita Eagle. “We’ve been working to try to renovate and reopen Wichita Greyhound Park.”

The park, which has been closed since 2007, would undergo a complete renovation as part of Ruffin’s $128 million plan to transform it into a three-floor casino named Golden Circle. The opening of Golden Circle would take place in approximately 14 months. And after the casino opens, Ruffin plans to build a 110-bed hotel.

Ruffin Jr. highlighted the potential of the iconic building, stating: “There’s a lot of space in there. There’s a lot to do. We’re going to have restaurants and pizza by the slice and smoothies and all kinds of great food from our executive chef in Las Vegas, who’s going to come down and train our staff.”

The Golden Circle proposal received letters of support from various notable figures, including Kansas House Speaker Dan Hawkins, Sedgwick County Commission Chairman Pete Meitzner, and former Sedgwick County Sheriff Mike Hill. Ruffin, a business partner of former President Donald Trump, owns the Treasure Island and Circus Circus hotels and casinos in Las Vegas.

Casino mogul Phil Ruffin

The new project comes as a result of the 2022 Kansas law legalizing sports betting, which also allowed the state gaming commission to award one license to operate 1,000 historical horse racing machines in Sedgwick County. Three groups initially submitted plans, but only Ruffin’s made it to the finish line.

In response to public comments and concerns, Golden Circle does not plan to reintroduce live racing at the property. Instead, the three-floor casino will feature 1,000 HHR machines on the first floor, bars, televisions broadcasting live horse races on the second and third floors, and dining options.

As plans move forward, Ruffin Jr. acknowledged the work ahead, stating: “We’re just really looking forward to it; (we’ve) got a lot of work to do.”