No reasons for delay in conducting referendum

When the municipal election rolls around every four years, Vigo County voters who don't live in the city of limits of Terre Haute (or West Terre Haute) instinctively know they can sit this one out.

This year, however, that may not be the case. Although a final decision won't be made until next month, it's becoming clear that a casino referendum will be put to all county voters this fall.

The special countywide election could be called in response to a sweeping new gaming law passed during the Indiana General Assembly's recent session. The law, among other things, would allow for a casino license in Vigo County if voters approve it.

The question to be put to voters is simple: "Shall inland casino gambling be permitted in Vigo County."

In Terre Haute and West Terre Haute, the casino question would be added to the municipal and town ballots for the already-scheduled election. Additional provisions will be made for county voters to have access to polling places where they can vote on the casino referendum.

The Vigo County Election Board is wisely moving ahead with the intention of conducting the referendum during the Nov. 5 election. The gaming law specifies the referendum to be conducted either this fall or in 2020. Having an election at the first opportunity is by far the better approach.

The county will face added costs for expanding the scope of the fall election. Early estimates are approximately $50,000 extra — not pocket change, but certainly worth the investment considering the stakes. A casino is expected to boost the local economy, with construction jobs while being built and up to 400 permanent jobs when operational. There will be tax benefits to governmental units, and a residual impact would be felt by retail and service businesses that cater to community visitors.

The referendum is the critical next step in the process. If voters approve of the casino and other stipulations of the law are met, the Indiana Gaming Commission will then accept applications from potential operators. The Gaming Commission will make the final decision on an operator.

The Legislature provided the mechanism for Vigo County to quickly do its part in the process. At this point, no reason to stall has presented itself. Moving ahead on a fall referendum is the prudent course.

Published editorials are the collective opinion of the Tribune-Star's Editorial Board and are independent of the newspaper's news gathering and coverage.