Jefferson City voters again reject repeal of casino ban

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- State capital residents on Tuesday soundly rejected an effort to overturn a 13-year-old ban on casino gambling.

Unofficial results from the Cole County Board of Elections show that roughly 62 percent of voters opposed a pair of measures that could have opened the gates to casino gambling along the Missouri River in this seat of state government.

The first measure, known as Proposition B, would have repealed a prohibition on casino and riverboat gambling that voters added to the city charter in 1995. Only 38 percent of the 9,090 votes cast favored that change.

A second measure to allow excursion gambling boats or floating casinos, known as Proposition C, met a similar fate, with 62.3 percent of voters rejecting the proposal.

Both measures were opposed by a coalition of church, business and civic leaders who feared that casino gambling would taint Jefferson City's small-town atmosphere and provide the local government with extra money at the expense of the most vulnerable.

"I'm ecstatic," said Clyde Lear, chairman and chief executive of Learfield Communications and head of Citizens Supporting Integrity, the leading opposition group. "The voters of Jefferson City just don't want to have casinos in our town."

The vote -- the city's third on casino gambling since 1992 -- was driven by a desire to boost the city's economy beyond its reliance on state government, supporters said. No casino companies have approached the city about a new project.

Concerns about an oversaturated casino market in Missouri led the gambling industry to circulate an initiative petition that would limit new casinos to those already built or being built.

State lawmakers also are considering limits on new casinos.

The House voted last week to ban new casino licenses for two years, a move that could block proposed casinos from opening in the Kansas City and St. Louis areas. And the state Senate is considering separate legislation that would ban any more casinos than those already operating or under construction.

There are 12 casinos in the state, each along either the Missouri or the Mississippi River.

Brown said he considers gambling in the state capital a moot point after Tuesday's vote.

"This establishes a clear standard that it's not something we want to do," he said.

Elsewhere in the state, residents of the St. Louis suburb of Kirkwood elected City Councilman Arthur McDonnell as new mayor two months after someone gunned down five city employees in a City Hall melee.

City Councilwoman Connie Karr's name was removed from the ballot in the mayor's race after her Feb. 7 slaying. That left McDonnell as the lone name on the ballot, and three write-in candidates who emerged when the city refused to postpone the election.

McDonnell received 4,155 votes, or 76.3 percent, while there were 1,292 write-in votes cast for someone else.

In Valley Park, which has gained national attention for its policies on illegal immigration, a mayoral election may decide whether the Meramec River town southwest of St. Louis stays in the forefront of the illegal immigration debate.

Mayor Jeffery Whitteaker, who is seeking re-election, spearheaded the passage of ordinances that set fines for businesses and landlords for hiring and renting to illegal immigrants.

Whitteaker claims the American Civil Liberties Union is actively supporting his opponent, Grant Young. The public interest group has said emphatically that is false.

With three of eight precincts reporting, Young was leading with 430 votes, or 63 percent, to Witteaker's 255 votes, or 37 percent.

In Kansas City, voters narrowly approved an ordinance that bans smoking in enclosed public places, including bars and restaurants and on public sidewalks abutting acute care hospitals.

The ordinance received support from 52.5 percent of the voters compared with 47.5 percent opposed, according to unofficial results. A simple majority was needed for the measure to pass.

Voters also approved requiring short-term loan offices to pay an annual fee of $1,000, or $500 for those who file an application with less than six months remaining in the year. The measure passed with about 64 percent of voters in favor.

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