Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Dicey Days for River Gambling Voters in the Show Me State Will Vote Tuesday on a Measure That Would Allow Floating Casinos

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Dicey Days for River Gambling Voters in the Show Me State Will Vote Tuesday on a Measure That Would Allow Floating Casinos

Article excerpt

LAST summer's record-breaking flood proved that Missouri's rivers are powerful agents for change. This spring, although the water has stayed within the banks so far, Missourians are contemplating another way rivers may impact their future.

This time, it's a debate about whether to legalize riverboat gambling that has captivated attention. Next Tuesday, state residents will vote on a constitutional amendment authorizing floating casinos on the Missouri and Mississippi rivers.

This is the state's second vote on the issue. In November 1992, 62 percent of voters approved riverboat gambling. But this January, a Missouri Supreme Court ruling invalidated part of the original gambling law.

Casino operators had already spent millions and hired hundreds of workers. So a constitutional amendment was proposed and a new vote scheduled.

Gambling supporters are more concerned this time, however. November 1992 was a presidential election that brought out 78 percent of registered voters. In April elections, less than 30 percent of voters usually go to the polls. Those who do vote are primarily older, relatively affluent citizens who are more likely to oppose gambling. A poll taken earlier this month found that a slim majority of likely voters support the gambling amendment.

Pro-gambling forces are blanketing the state with billboards and television ads selling gambling as the best bet to spur tourism, create jobs, improve schools, and strengthen the economy. Flush with cash from casino operators ready to turn on their slot machines, proponents are expected to spend nearly $3 million on the campaign.

Meanwhile, churches and antigambling groups are waging a quieter campaign. They contend that gaming drains poor residents' resources and increases crime.

Here in the Show Me State, people want evidence. So both sides have offered a parade of studies and experts. …

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