Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Rain May Cloud Gambling's Future

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Rain May Cloud Gambling's Future

Article excerpt

Look for rain to be the wild card in today's statewide and local riverboat-gambling votes.

The election will end one of the most costly and contentious issue campaigns Missouri has seen.

With voter turnout considered key, both sides are concentrating on final appeals to persuade their supporters to get to the polls. That means a last-minute barrage of TV ads in favor of gambling, while opponents erect hundreds of signs against it.

Lots of rain could keep turnout down, which analysts say could help the opponents of riverboat gambling. People planning to vote "no" on ballot items often are more committed to getting to the polls.

A simple majority is needed to approve a proposal for a constitutional amendment to allow riverboat gambling on the Mississippi and Missouri rivers. In addition, about two dozen communities around the state - including several in the St. Louis area - have local gambling proposals on their ballot. Local approval is required before any gambling vessels can begin operations.

With the exception of St. Louis, most area communities also have other municipal and school elections. Forty-four mayoral posts are at stake today, along with dozens of school board seats and a few positions in fire districts.

But most of the public attention, and campaign spending, has been devoted to the gambling issue. The backers - largely financed by prospective casino operators - have spent at least $2.8 million to promote riverboat gambling. That's more than the $2 million spent in 1992, when the state overwhelmingly approved a similar proposal. The Missouri Supreme Court in January, in effect, threw out that vote.

Opponents have spent less than $50,000, according to their most recent campaign finance reports.

Because of the turnout factor, both sides are predicting a close vote even though recent polls show a majority of Missourians backing riverboat gambling. …

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