ORIGINALLY WRITTEN DON RATZLAFF
Marion County was the last of three central-Kansas counties to hold a mail-in referendum about supporting a destination casino within its borders-and the first to decline the proposition.
By a margin of only 200 votes, Marion County indicated its opposition to a casino, 2,577 to 2,377.
The ballots were due at the Marion County Courthouse by noon Thursday.
Two days earlier, residents of Sumner County approved the idea of building a casino by a vote of 4,842 to 2,838. The previous week, Harvey County residents said yes to a casino by less than 400 votes, 6,403 for to 6,030 against.
“I really thought it’d be very close here,” said Bob Hein, chairman of the Board of Commissioners. “I feel the people have spoken and this has given them a chance to voice their opinion.
“We’ll move forward and work on something else now.”
County Clerk Carol Maggard said 8,957 ballots were mailed out Dec. 2. About 1,462 were returned as undeliverable. That left about 2,500 ballots that were received but not returned.
Hein said even if the outcome in Marion County had been reversed, he would not have aggressively pursued the notion of locating a casino here.
“It would have had to pass by a pretty good margin, like 70 (percent) to 30 (percent) before I would have pushed for it,” he said. “But I’ve had several people tell me, ‘I’m glad you at least let us vote on it.'”
Hein described the prospect of any county in Kansas getting a casino as “a long-shot deal.”
“You have to get it passed up at Topeka,” he said. “What I hear is, if legislators think there’s a county that really wants it, they may look at it a little bit differently. But it may not go in anyway.”
As for Marion County, “We’ll move forward and do something else,” Hein said. “It was one of those deals where I felt, ‘Let the people speak.’ That’s the way to do it.”