August 6, 2004 --Posted 5:00 p.m. CDT
West Memphis, AR -- A group out of Memphis is rolling the dice with a proposal that could bring gambling to Arkansas.
The Callaway Group, an advertising and marketing firm from Memphis, that does a lot of work out of Tunica Mississippi, has approached Crittenden County officials about making millions for the delta through the casino industry.
This group is working with Shelby county officials as well to bring gaming to the Pyramid.
"We know that there have been several attempts in the past, the general consensus is that gaming is going to end up in Arkansas sooner or later," said Joe Callaway.
At a recent Crittenden County Qurom Court meeting, they presented an initiative that would authorize the people of the county to decide for themselves if they should allow gambling in their community.
The Callaway Group says this proposal is different than previous failed attempts.
"The strategy here is to structure a program where the county would be the primary beneficiary of the gaming," said Callaway.
In addition, Callaway says Tunica County in Mississippi was once considered the Ethiopia of America, as the poorest county in the United States. He says it now reaps 65 million dollars in revenue a year, something the delta could benefit from.
"I don't believe there's going to be public support at all," said Pastor Clay Hallmark with First Baptist Church in Marion.
Hallmark vows to fight this initiative until the end.
"Bringing the casino/gambling industry is not going to do anything to improve the county," said Hallmark.
"Keep in mind gaming has existed in Crittenden County for 50 years, so it's not like we're bringing in a foreign element into the mix," said Callaway.
"The race track revenue and the participation at the race track has gone down in recent years, while the crime in that area has gone up," said Hallmark.
The Callaway Group in Memphis will once again present its proposal at the next Qurom Court Meeting that is scheduled for August 17th.