If Cape Girardeau officials and Isle of Capri executives wanted Tuesday's election victory to send a strong endorsement to the state, Missouri Gaming Commission Chairman Jim Mathewson said they should consider it sent.
"Sixty-one percent is a pretty good margin of victory," Mathewson said Wednesday, referring to the percentage of city voters who cast "yes" ballots. "If you wanted a casino in your community, I'd say that's a pretty good vote. Cape Girardeau is still a player in this whole thing."
The measure to approve the casino passed with 12,485 votes of the city's 24,811 registered voters.
Mathewson, a former state senator from Sedalia, leads the five-member panel that will decide whether Missouri's 13th casino license goes to Cape Girardeau, St. Louis+, Sugar Creek or none of them.
Mathewson said he knew about the casino victory by 10:30 p.m. Tuesday.
"That's how interested I was," he said. "When I was in office, I would have always been happy with 61 percent."
Cape Girardeau proponents of a $125 million casino near downtown have cleared a hurdle, but it's not a sure bet. The commission will meet Nov. 15 in a closed session to review proprietary financial data from all three companies -- Isle of Capri, Las Vegas-based Paragon Gaming and Casino Celebration LLC.
Mathewson said he is still hopeful they will render a decision by the end of the month, but certainly by the end of the year.
"We're still in check-off mode," he said. "We're still pulling information together."
But Mathewson said that not granting a license is still on the table. If the financials don't add up to the commissioners, they may not grant a license at all. But if that were to happen, that wouldn't mean a 13th Missouri casino would be out of the question down the line.
"What that would mean is that we found cause that we didn't think it was timely to use the 13th license," he said. "My guess is that if that happens, we would revisit the issue in 10 months or so. Then we'd have to start the process all over."
Sugar Creek Mayor Stan Salva said he was also watching the results of Cape Girardeau's election. He said he still believes his city's casino proposal makes the most sense for the state.
Cape Girardeau Mayor Harry Rediger said Tuesday he believes the Isle of Capri proposal has become the front-runner.
"I think we've got the edge," he said. "Ours is much bigger in scope and would be much more a destination for people from all over."
Salva said an election in Sugar Creek showed 70 percent support from its community, which is about 10 miles from Kansas City.
One thing the election shows, Mathewson said, is that most Cape Girardeau residents support the casino.
"I don't think the question will come up to the commission that there wasn't enough support in the community," he said. "That won't be a question."