Expanded Gambling in West Memphis

October 26, 2005--Posted at 6:00 p.m. CDT

WEST MEMPHIS, AR--The Southland Greyhound Park once brought in crowds in excess of 20,000 people, but now due to competition from the casinos in Tunica, park officials are looking to bring back customers with a resolution to add an expanded gambling experience.

"This is just an expansion of what already exists and with those new games would come new jobs," said Jobs for West Memphis Campaign Director Robert McLarty.

"The video type games that they are proposing to put at Southland are the most addictive form of gambling," said West Memphis First Baptist Church Pastor Ron Kirkland.

Early voting opened on Monday for a resolution to bring an additional 500 to 1000 skilled video gaming terminals to the Southland Greyhound Park. The park already has 80 of these units in use.

"This election is really about jobs bringing more good jobs to West Memphis," said McLarty.

"Gambling is the most addictive activity a person can engage in," said Kirkland.

Both sides believe the result of this election will have a dramatic effect on the local economy.

"Tunica has been a blow to the area as far as the economy and this will help generate additional revenues and additional jobs," said McLarty.

"You can plot the growth of Crittenden County on a chart and show how the growth of the county the economic development of the county did not turn upward when the dog track arrived it turned downward," said Kirkland.

If the resolution is passed Jobs for West Memphis believes it could bring more than 400 news jobs to West Memphis, but opponents believe the negatives far outweigh the positives.

"There will be people who lose their jobs because of this vote, there will be people whose family will break up as a result of this vote," said Kirkland.

If this resolution is passed a number of local churches feel this could just be a precursor to more gambling in the area.

"The object is just the next step toward having casino gambling in Crittenden County," said Kirkland.

After less than a week of voting, officials with Jobs for West Memphis believe more than 1000 people have already come out to place their vote on this issue. But with more than a week a voting left this issue has yet to hit the home stretch.