Gambling Is A Go!

November 9, 2005--Posted at 5:15 p.m. CDT

WEST MEMPHIS, AR--Yesterday was Election Day and one of the hot topics in Region 8 was to expand the gambling experience at Southland Greyhound Park.

"Revenue is very scarce around here and West Memphis is slowly dying so we decided that this is a great effort to bring back revenue to West Memphis," said voter Antoinette George.

The majority of voters agreed. In fact 64% of voters in West Memphis approved of adding more electronic gaming machines at the Southland Greyhound Track.

"We felt the message of the new jobs is what people want, people spoke yesterday with their results and their vote that it's West Memphis turn to get these new jobs," said Robert McLarty from the Jobs for West Memphis.

Still 36% percent of the voters feel the negatives outweigh the positives.

"The downside of that is gambling will bring about problems for West Memphis and surrounding areas," said Bill Wheeler from the Family First Foundation.

The Family First Foundation looked to generate the support of 35 area churches through their message.

"They talk about the A,B,C's of gambling, addiction bankruptcies and crime," said Wheeler.

When the casinos in Tunica opened, the economy in West Memphis took a huge hit but, by bringing these electronic gaming machines to the Southland Greyhound Park officials are hoping it will bring more jobs and more business to the area. Opponents feel it is the first step to bringing legalized casino gambling to Arkansas.

"200 jobs averaging 30,000 a year is going to make a huge difference with any community," said McLarty.

"Their desire is to compete with Tunica and in order to compete with Tunica they have to have what Tunica has," said Wheeler.

Despite yesterday's vote a group out of Little Rock is still looking to fight the issue based on the small group of citizens involved in the election.

"They were able to limit the vote only the vote in West Memphis when it affects everyone in Marion and throughout the county," said Wheeler.

Voters in Hot Springs voted on the same issue yesterday and the vote was much closer. Voters approved expanded gambling by only 89 votes for the Oaklawn Park Thoroughbred Race Track.