Casino Barrier Lowered Riverboats Expected to Open Doors over Memorial Day Holiday

By Fred W. Lindecke Missouri Political Correspondent | St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO), May 13, 1994 | Go to article overview

Casino Barrier Lowered Riverboats Expected to Open Doors over Memorial Day Holiday


Fred W. Lindecke Missouri Political Correspondent, St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)


The Legislature has flashed a big green light for the beginning of riverboat gambling in Missouri on Memorial Day weekend.

Despite the defeat on April 5 of a constitutional amendment that would have authorized full-scale riverboat gambling, the Senate completed action Thursday on a bill to let gambling start on a limited basis.

In addition to poker and blackjack, games would include craps and certain video gaming, or slot machines.

Gov. Mel Carnahan, standing outside the Senate chamber, indicated he would sign it. He said he "wouldn't be surprised" to see the Admiral in St. Louis, and boats in St. Charles, Kansas City and St. Joseph begin operation on Memorial Day.

Passage of the gambling bill left some big issues yet to be decided by 6 p.m. today, the adjournment deadline for this session of the Legislature.

On the line was Carnahan's all-out push for a health-care bill that would let people with pre-existing medical conditions get insurance. So was anti-crime legislation and revision of the state law on campaign financing.

The Senate had no trouble passing the riverboat bill by Sen. John E. Scott, D-St. Louis. No opponent wanted to filibuster.

The emergency clause allowing the bill to go into effect as soon as Carnahan signs it received the necessary two-thirds vote.

The vote was 21-11 for the bill and 24-8 on the emergency clause.

One cloud cast a shadow. This was the possibility of court action by gambling opponents that would delay further the boats on the Mississippi and Missouri rivers.

Sen. Emory Melton, R-Cassville, a gambling opponent, said a suit was possible that would allege the Legislature was trying to short-circuit the Missouri Supreme Court.

When the Supreme Court invalidated key portions of the gambling law in January, the Legislature tried the April 5 vote in response. After this failed, Scott's bill was an effort to protect the Admiral and put as many gambling games as possible on the boats.

The Supreme Court ruled that:

The Admiral might be in an unconstitutional gambling zone, but gaming supporters could go to Circuit Judge James F. McHenry in Jefferson City and argue that the zone was justified.

Only table games of poker and blackjack were "games of skill" that could be played on riverboats, but gaming supporters also could argue before McHenry that additional games were legal.

Scott's bill seeks to eliminate these points by repealing the St. …

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