Cape Girardeau City Council: Too early to put gambling casino to public vote

Thursday, April 22, 2010

There appears to be little sentiment on the Cape Girardeau City Council to seek a public vote on whether the city should pursue a casino development.

In interviews at the council retreat Wednesday at the Osage Community Centre, council members said they have been getting calls and e-mails from constituents, with many urging that the issue be put on the ballot.

City manager Scott Meyer on Tuesday sent a letter to the gaming commission announcing that the city "would like to express its willingness and excitement to explore the gaming opportunity along our Mississippi riverfront."

The Missouri Gaming Commission set a May 1 deadline for cities and casinos to express interest in the license that will become available July 1 when the President Casino in St. Louis closes. Along with Cape Girardeau, Sugar Creek, Mo., and St. Louis are expected to ask for the casino.

Cape Girardeau voted twice in 1993 on whether to seek a casino. The vote was close both times, with the final approval coming on a 52-48 percent margin. On Monday, retired marketing manager Doug Austin, former councilman Melvin Gateley and retired pastor Paul Kabo asked the council to put it on the ballot again. Austin also said he will organize a petition drive to have a vote if the council declines to do so.

Ward 3 Councilwoman Debra Tracy said she has received several phone calls and e-mails, all calling on the council to put the measure to a vote. No one has contacted her supporting the decision to put Cape Girardeau's name in the mix for the lone available license, she said.

The public needs to be heard on gambling, Tracy said, adding that she expects a petition drive. The council doesn't want to call a vote itself, she said.

"I don't have any gut feeling that the council has any will to move forward with a vote," Tracy said.

The May 1 deadline is just the start of the process. The commission has not set a timeline for making other decisions. The most likely date for a vote sparked by a petition drive, which would require 2,600 signatures from registered voters, would be Nov. 2. Ward 1 Councilman John Voss said he expects the gaming commission to make a decision by then.

"It is premature for the council to take any action on a vote of the people," Voss said. "We don't even know if we are in the running. We have got to see if we are seriously being considered."

Ward 5 Councilman Mark Lanzotti also said it is too early to think about another vote.

"Raising the question at this point is too premature," he said. "We don't even know whether we are in the game or what the scope of the development is."

Mayor Harry Rediger also said he has had numerous calls and e-mails asking for another vote. The vote from 1993 is sufficient, he said. "It is not the burden of the council to bring another vote to the citizens," he said.

rkeller@semissourian.com

388-3642

Pertinent addresses:

1625 N. Kingshighway, Cape Girardeau, MO

Map of pertinent addresses

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