IN a high-stakes vote on Tuesday, Missourians narrowly defeated a constitutional amendment allowing ``games of chance'' on riverboats.
Missouri is the first state to reject floating slot machines. Illinois, Iowa, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Indiana already have riverboat gambling.
The amendment lost by fewer than 1,300 votes. Spring rain and snow may have lowered voter turnout, particularly in urban areas that traditionally support gambling. Although St. Louis backed the amendment by a ratio of more than 2-to-1, the turnout was higher in rural areas where opposition to gambling is strong.
``Many people in Missouri hold us as a Midwestern family-values state, and they don't want to have the problems that Atlantic City has,'' says Mark Andrews, a St. Louis businessman who heads Citizens for Life and Liberty, an antigambling group
But the game is not over for gambling proponents. ``The strategy is to decide when we can get it back on the ballot,'' says Scott Intagliata, a spokesman for the pro-gambling campaign. Supporters are looking toward August or November as their next opportunity.
That would be the third statewide vote on the issue. In November 1992, 62 percent of Missourians approved a law allowing riverboat gambling. But early this year the Missouri Supreme Court ruled that ``games of chance'' are unconstitutional and ordered a lower court to decide whether slot machines are games of chance or games of skill.
Tuesday's vote was an effort to resolve the question more quickly. The outcome ``does not mean that riverboat gambling is prohibited,'' says Gov. Mel Carnahan. ``It does, however, limit the type of games that will be available.''