An interesting question faces the Kansas City city council next week: Should a casino be able to raise the sales tax on its customers and use the money for improvements on its own property?
The concept is the “community improvement district.” Usually it's a group of business people in a declining area that asks approval of a one-cent sales-tax increase in the specified district. Once in a while, it's a single property owner. This time, it's the Ameristar Casino.
The idea was advanced by committee without a dissenting vote. Councilman Russ Johnson brought it up in the council business session as a matter of concern. Johnson objected to the idea of granting a benefit to a single property owner. He also had qualms about helping the fortunes of a casino, and that the property in question “is not blighted in any way.”
Several other council members seemed unconvinced that the CID is a good idea. Some wanted to know exactly what kind of “improvements” the Ameristar had in mind.
Ed Ford was one of those for the plan. He said he was skeptical at first, but then realized the "border war" competition the Ameristar was facing from the Hollywood Casino at the Kansas Speedway.
“What swung me," Ford said, " was the fact that they have a $400 million competitor over on the Kansas side of the road that has already had a 10 percent impact on their business."
The “210 Highway Community Improvement District,” as it is officially called, is scheduled for a full council vote next Thursday.