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Election Day voting places gambling at crossroads

Oct 28, 2002 11:36 PM

   This may be considered an off-year election, but Nov. 5 could be one of the most important dates in the future of American gaming.

   A number of states across the country are wrestling with amendments calling for increased gaming. Opposition forces are digging in for a fight against an undercurrent of gambling support they feel is spreading in the U.S.


   A statewide coalition of anti-casino groups has been formed to fight the expansion of Indian gaming. The state legislature will be pressured in the next legislative session that begins in January to rescind the Las Vegas Nights law, which allows nonprofit organizations to hold gambling activities such as wheels of fortune and other games of chance.


   In Augusta, the harness racing industry gathered speakers last week at a public hearing against efforts to bring casinos. The public hearing was equally divided with approximately 100 supporters and non-supporters of gaming. There has been a push to build a casino in order to provide more jobs. The racetrack officials are campaigning that gaming would negatively impact their livelihoods.


   Three gambling propositions have topped $37 million in fundraising, nearly enough money to offset the deficit in the state’s university system due to budget cutbacks. Much of the money has gone to a heavy dose of media advertising leading up to the Nov. 5 election.


   State regulators have come out against proposed expansion of slot-machine style gaming. Expansion plans would allow placement of 20,000 gaming machines in bingo  halls, bars, restaurants, mini-casinos, cardrooms and bowling alleys across Washington. The bill is expected to be introduced when the Legislature convenes in January. A similar movement was rejected last year.


   Gov. Bill Graves is seeking White House help in killing a proposal for have an Indian casino in Wyandotte County. The governor said that a Wyandotte victory would strengthen land claims in the state by other tribes. The U.S. Department of the Interior is reviewing its earlier land decisions that paved the way for gaming.

   ALSO: A new poll in Memphis states that supporters of a state lottery own a narrow 41-40 percent edge. Advocates say a lottery would raise $300 million a year and pay tuitions for the smartest university students in Tennessee. West Virginia voters go to the poles Nov. 5 to vote on a planned downtown casino in Huntington that would attract 400,000 people and pump $60 million into the economy.

Boomtown move granted

   Boomtown casino in Biloxi, Miss., was given permission from the Commission of Marine Resources to move its barge 1,000 feet to the west and south.

   The new location would save the casino company about $4 million a year in lease payments based on revenue. The casino was allowed to relocate despite a federal lawsuit over the lease agreement.

   The Commission ruled that environmental effects would be minimal, while opponents threatened to end their lease to half of Boomtown’s parking places.

Pinnacle speeds ahead

   Pinnacle Entertainment’s plan for a $325 million riverboat casino resort in Lake Charles, La., looks to be good to go.

   The Associated Press reported that the Isle of Capri, a competitor to Pinnacle, was planning to move one of its gambling boats. The change, however, would not affect the new resort.

   Pinnacle has plans to build what would be the fifth dockside casino in the Lake Charles area. The Isle of Capri has a developmental agreement with Cameron Parish to place a riverboat casino closer to the Texas border.

Illinois down on boats

   The State of Illinois may be losing its love affair with riverboat gambling.

   Attendance and gross receipt figures declined in September, marking the second straight down month. September was the lowest attendance and receipts month this year for casino gaming in Illinois.

   All nine casinos showed attendance was off from 2.3 to 10 percent, according to State Gaming Board figures. Receipts were down from 4.8 to 9 percent. A sagging economy was blamed for the red figures.