Casino backers also expect more tourism. Boot Hill attracts 70,000 visitors a year, but that’s less than the 90,000 it had attracted when “Gunsmoke” reruns aired more widely.
“I think we need a shot in the arm to get our tourism back,” said Charlie Meade, who gives downtown walking tours, dressed as a Western marshal, with a black cowboy hat and an 1881 Colt .45 on his hip.
In late June, Ford County voters authorized a casino, with 64 percent of them in favor of the idea. But Boot Hill and potential competitors still must submit applications to the state, and a review board might not decide which one gets the contract until late February.
There are other obstacles, such as Dodge City’s relatively small airport and the distance of nearly 100 miles to the nearest interstate, I-70.
William Thompson, a UNLV professor of public administration who has studied the gambling industry for a quarter-century and wrote a 1994 handbook on the subject, was pessimistic, having produced a study for Kansas in 2006. He estimates that a Dodge City casino could generate $80 million a year in revenue — but pull tens of millions of dollars out of the local economy.
Boot Hill officials think their casino would generate $57 million to $60 million a year in revenue and employ an estimated 670 people. Legislators were less optimistic, projecting revenue of less than $28 million.
Boot Hill wants its complex to offer limited dining and not more than 100 hotel rooms, so that it won’t compete with local businesses.
But Mr. Thompson said that approach is a mistake if Dodge City wants to attract conventions that bring hundreds of tourists to town. He said that if developers want tourists to sustain a casino, they generally need 2,000 hotel rooms for every $100 million in annual revenue they hope to generate. If Boot Hill followed both his projections and his rule, the new hotel would have 1,100 to 1,200 rooms.
Mr. Thompson also said Dodge City can’t count on drawing tourists from Denver because of casinos in Black Hawk and Central City, Colo., or from Kansas City, Mo., because of gambling there.
“If they would have done this in 1955, when the alternative was Las Vegas, it might have meant something,” Mr. Thompson said. “Right now, I see it as a major negative because you won’t be able to draw in the gamblers.”