Kansas City Strip

Games people play: What secrets lurk in the hearts of Kansas Lottery officials? Adultery? Homosexuality? Inquiring minds at GTECH want to know. The billion-dollar company shares a building with the scratch-and-wish agency in Topeka and manages much of the lottery’s business. It won’t rest until it’s running every state-sponsored numbers racket, however, and three former GTECH supervisors have told a Lawrence newspaper they quit after being ordered to gather blackmail dirt on lottery officials.

One target was Kansas Lottery executive director Ed VanPetten. GTECH honchos ordered an employee to take him on a business date and get him drunk, according to a civil rights complaint filed by the woman, who asserts she wouldn’t have drawn the onerous assignment if she’d been a male.

“I don’t discuss business over drinks,” VanPetten tells the Pitch. “If we had business to do over dinner, it’d be separate checks. If it weren’t business, I wouldn’t be having dinner” with a GTECH employee. “I know who (the newspaper’s) source is. That person doesn’t have any credibility at all with me.”

And on the Missouri side, more evidence of gambling’s corrupting influence came to light last week in Jackson County Circuit Court, just a day after the state’s gambling commission turned over Station Casino’s riverboat licenses to Ameristar Casinos Inc.

Station Casino’s lawyer, Michael Lazaroff, had been caught giving phoner after phoner — 200 in all — to Missouri Gaming Commission chairman Robert L. Wolfson. Was it good for Lazaroff? We can’t be sure what the two men talked about, but Lazaroff’s work landed him $500,000 in bonuses — and proved costly for Station, which not only lost its licenses in Missouri and received a $1 million fine but now also faces a lawsuit over the $129 million in annual revenues a competitor missed out on in 1993 when Station got the license instead.

Here at the Pitch, we’re not inclined to let government officials get away with hoarding all the fun for themselves. In celebration of these low standards, we propose a little gaming opportunity of our own.

Since Leavenworth’s most famous resident has only a few days left to wonder whether President Bill Clinton will grant him executive clemency, we’ve created the Pitch Weekly Free Leonard Peltier Pool.

Peltier, who is serving two consecutive life sentences for the 1975 Pine Ridge shooting deaths of FBI agents Jack Coler and Ronald Williams, missed the first round of pardons on Friday; as of our press time, Peltier still wasn’t free.

But Peltier lawyer Bruce Ellison tells us he remains “cautiously optimistic that the president will see the propriety of granting clemency. It is appropriate because of the substantial questions raised as to the fairness of the legal proceedings, it is appropriate under all the facts and circumstances surrounding that confrontation, it is appropriate in the words of the judge who affirmed Peltier’s conviction — who has been troubled by the legal standard he felt was necessary to apply, and felt that clemency was appropriate because the FBI shared responsibility for the firefight. It’s appropriate to begin the healing process between Native Americans and the federal government. Twenty-five years is too long.”

For Peltier, 23 more days is too long. Ellison figures Clinton has up until January 19 — or maybe even January 20, George W. Bush‘s inauguration day — to grant Peltier his freedom. Under Bush, Peltier is more likely to go free than John Ashcroft is to light up a stogie and do a celebratory two-step with wife Janet after his confirmation as attorney general.

But we all know how slippery everything becomes when it’s in Bill Clinton’s hands. Since anything could happen in the next few days, we’re revved up and ready for a little wagering. So the first Pitch reader to guess the exact day on which Clinton grants Peltier clemency gets to select one of the following prizes:

• As an example of “the healing process between Native Americans and the federal government” — not to mention Douglas County commissioners and the Kansas Department of Transportation — the lucky winner can opt for lifetime speeding-ticket clemency on 31st Street in Lawrence — more commonly known as the eastern leg of the South Lawrence Trafficway, which passes through sacred wetlands near the campus of Haskell Indian Nations University.

• A lifetime supply of tickets to Chiefs games, where the lucky winner can help facilitate healing by doing the tomahawk chop, smudging himself with fake Indian war paint, and wearing chicken-feather approximations of sacred ceremonial headdresses.

• The deed to the 1906 Scottish Rite Temple at Seventh Street Trafficway at Ann Avenue, next to the historic Huron Indian Cemetery and across the street from City Hall in Kansas City, Kansas. The Wyandotte Tribe of Oklahoma owns the building — which is on the National Register of Historic Places — and plans to build the Wyandotte Palace Casino there, since (in another act of healing between Native Americans and the government) Kansas legislators in 1997 passed a law barring the tribe from building its gambling parlor on top of the sacred burial ground next door. If all the legal roulette surrounding the property prevents the winner of the Free Leonard Peltier Pool from rightly claiming his winnings, however, we’ll offer as a consolation prize full ownership of The Woodlands.

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