Jasper County residents are going to the polls today to vote on a gambling referendum. Developers of a casino-hotel complex proposed for construction near the Iowa Speedway south of Interstate 80 in Newton are pushing for approval of the referendum. Jasper County Auditor and Commissioner of Elections, Dennis Parrott, expects a good turnout.
Parrott says they have over 550 absentee ballots, which he says is "a considerable amount" for county-wide election that isn’t for a presidential or other major contest. "So we’re planning a pretty sizable turnout at the polls," Parrott says. The county has 26-thousand-500 registered voters.
The referendum is a gamble itself that the State Racing and Gaming Commission will decide to issue new gambling licenses. The commission discussed new licenses at its meeting last month and decided to wait until a new economic study can be completed of Iowa’s gambling industry.
That study isn’t expected to be completed until early next year. Newton developers would then have to compete with at least four other groups — in Ottumwa, Fort Dodge, Tama and rural Franklin County — that want a gambling license for a new casino. The polls are open in Jasper County until eight o’clock tonight.