CASINO REFERENDUM: Warren County Vote

Polling places are open in Warren County Tuesday as voters decide whether they want plans for a new casino in Norwalk to move forward.

It’s a hot button issue that has supporters talking jobs and revenue and opponents talking addiction and bankruptcy.

It’s also an election that is expected to draw big crowds.

Owners of the Wild Rose Casino in Emmetsburg want to build a casino, hotel and events center near Highways 5 and 28 in Norwalk. They say it would create 450 full time jobs and add millions to the local economy.

It’s a proposal that has strong opinions on both sides of the issue and one that is expected to bring out a record crowd of voters.

“We`re lucky if we get 10% (voter turnout) for regular, non-federal elections, I think this is going to be a lot more because we already have almost 4,000 absentees and for a special election like this, we usually average about 500,” says Warren County Auditor Traci VanderLinden.

People on both sides of the issue have been very vocal leading up to Tuesday’s election.

Critics say there is already a casino in nearby Altoona and they don’t want the negative aspects of gambling in Warren County.

Last month people spoke out about the casino at a Norwalk city council meeting, bringing up concerns about added traffic, noise, and increased expenses for the city.

Supporters say the casino would mean hundreds of jobs and millions of dollars for Warren County cities and schools.

No matter how voters are feeling on the issue, the vote is expected to be a close one.

“I think it`s going to be pretty up in the air—fifty-fifty is what I`m hearing, but I really do believe it should be voted down,” says Indianola resident Dean Lowe.

“Had some people stop by the house, give me their opinion, I know how some of my neighbors feel…it`s a tough decision.  It may divide our community, I`m not sure,” says Celeste Gebhart of Indianola.

Voting is open until 8:00 p.m. Tuesday.  Anyone who requested an absentee ballot and didn’t get it postmarked by Monday, can bring it to a polling location Tuesday and still vote.

If voters approve the casino, the plan would still need the approval of the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission.



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