A referendum to bring riverboat gambling to northwest Iowa was overwhelming approved by voters Tuesday in Palo Alto County. Supporters say the project will boost jobs and tourism. Nearly half the county’s voters turned out for the vote and seven in ten cast ballots in favor of the gambling boat. Emmetsburg City Developer Tom Alger says he’s relieved and ecstatic, but not surprised by the final tally. The proposed gambling boat would cruise Emmetsburg’s Five Island Lake. Just over 71-percent of the residents voted in favor of the measure, with the final tally of two-thousand-461 voters in favor and one-thousand-four opposed. Alger says everyone he talked to was “excited about it, enthusiastic about it, passionate about it.”Emmetsburg has entered into an agreement with casino developer Grace Entertainment. Alger says the next step is putting together a feasibility study for the project and applying for a gaming license. For that to happen, the State Racing and Gaming Commission will have to lift a moratorium on issuing additional licenses. Larry Seckington, Counsel for Grace Entertainment, says the large amount of local support is a critical to the project. Grace owns and operates the Lakeside Casino Resort in Osceola. Seckington says Osceola and Emmetsburg are similar communities and the Emmetsburg project would mirror the one now running in Osceola. Turnout was heavy in the voting. Nearly 49-percent of the 71-hundred voters in Palo Alto County went to the polls Tuesday.
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