JEFFERSON - Voters paved the way for a casino near Jefferson Tuesday.
A referendum to allow gambling in Greene County was approved with 2,905 votes in favor, or 75 percent, and 964 votes opposed. Turnout was approximately 57 percent.
Passing the referendum is one step toward building a casino, which is proposed to be built near the junction of U.S. Highway 30 and Iowa Highway 4 in Jefferson. The Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission must next provide a license.
There's no guarantee a license will be given.
"Next we celebrate one victory, and regroup and start our drive for the gaming commission to honor the population vote, and see that we can convince them to authorize at least one more casino in Iowa in Greene County," said Norm Fandel, chair of Grow Greene County, a group which has advocated for the casino.
The state last approved a new casino in Lyon County in May 2010. At that time, four applications - including a proposal from Fort Dodge - were rejected.
The commission members have said they will request two studies to determine if there are any areas that are "underserved'' in terms of casinos and if there is a need for new casinos.
Greene County Supervisor Guy Richardson said he's optimistic a license will be awarded for the Jefferson proposal.
"Certainly the fact that we had a large voter turnout, and received a 75 percent favorable vote is huge, in terms of telling the Racing and Gaming Commission that this is a mandate," said Mike Mumma, treasurer of Grow Greene County,
In June, petitions signed by 690 people requesting a referendum vote were submitted to the Greene County Board of Supervisors.
"We don't know how quickly the gaming commission will move forward or act on anything about this. Certainly we will start attending commission meetings," said Richardson. "As soon as they allow us to put in an application we will do so."
The gaming commission's next meeting will be Aug. 15 at Riverside Casino and Golf Resort south of Iowa City.