JOHN HANNA

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) ¿ A partnership hoping to build a Kansas City, Kan., casino cleared its biggest regulatory hurdle on Tuesday, despite the misgivings of the state board in charge of awarding the contract that the plan's first phase does not include building a hotel.

The Kansas Lottery Gaming Facility Review Board unanimously approved a $521 million project at Kansas Speedway, the Kansas City area's NASCAR track. International Speedway Corp., the track's parent, and Penn National Gaming Inc., of Wyomissing, Pa., are partners in the venture.

They hope to open the casino by early 2012 with 2,300 slot machines and about 90 tables for games such as poker and blackjack. The partners also expect the new gambling to generate $220 million in net revenues in 2013, though others' projections are more conservative.

The partners still face background checks by the Kansas Racing and Gaming Commission, which will regulate the casino, and it has until early March to sign off. But state officials don't expect the checks to take that long because Penn is licensed in other states.

Penn and speedway officials are promising to start building a hotel at the track within two years of the casino's opening or pay financial penalties. Review board members had questioned the delay but ultimately concluded it was reasonable, given the sour economy.

"This is about as good as we're going to get under the circumstances," said review board Chairman Matt All, an attorney from Lawrence.

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