A coalition of elected officials, law enforcement and religious leaders calling themselves Stop Casinos Now! have joined forces to oppose two ballot initiatives seeking to legalize more casinos in Arkansas.
Two out-of-state interests — one led by Nancy Todd and another by Michael Wasserman — are attempting to collect signatures to change the Arkansas constitution to allow for casinos in certain counties across the state.
“We’ve seen what happens when these full-scale casinos come to town – you get increased crime, higher unemployment, and more families going bankrupt,” said Chuck Lange, the committee chairman and former executive director of the Arkansas Sheriffs’ Association.
“Nancy Todd is a Las Vegas insider, trying to come in and tell Arkansans what’s best for our state, so she can make a profit at our expense. We’ve got to stop her initiative. We want folks to be aware if they are asked to sign a petition, they need to think twice. It’s going to take all of us working together to protect our communities and our families,” said Lange.
Partial funding for the coalition, Stop Casinos Now!, has come from one of only two casino-style venues in Arkansas, Delaware North, parent company of Southland Park in West Memphis. Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs offers electronic casino-style games, but is not part of the coalition.
Stop Casinos Now! spokesman Robert McLarty tells Talk Business that Southland and Oaklawn have worked in their communities for 50 and 100 years, respectively. Both racetracks sought local voter approval, legislative permission and state regulation in embarking on electronic games of skill wagering now permitted.
“Nancy Todd wants to bypass state regulation and working with communities and bring an unregulated scheme to Arkansas,” McLarty said “We think voters need to understand the dangers of her proposal.”
The opposition group has already embarked on a direct mail campaign to express concerns about the casino proposals.
Stop Casinos Now! committee members include:
Chuck Lange, chairman, former executive director of Arkansas Sheriff’s Association
Chief Albert Brown, Booneville
Chief Bob Harrison, Texarkana
Chief Danny Bradley, North Little Rock
Chief Don Oakes, West Memphis
Chief Gary Kelly, Marion
Chief Gary Sipes, Jacksonville
Chief Norbert Gunderman, Morrilton
Sheriff Doc Holladay, Pulaski County
Rep. Keith Ingram, D-West Memphis
Rep. Prissy Hickerson, R-Texarkana
Rep. Hudson Hallum, D-West Memphis
Rep. Mark Perry, D-Jacksonville
Rep. Andy Mayberry, R-Hensley
Rep. Jane English, R-Sherwood
Rep. Tommy Thompson, D-Morrilton
Rep. Jon Eubanks, R-Paris
Rep. Larry Cowling, D-Foreman
Rep. Johnnie Roebuck, D-Arkadelphia
Rep. Kathy Webb, D-Little Rock
Rep. Ed Garner, D-Maumelle
Rep. David Sanders, D-Little Rock
Rep. Gary Stubblefield, R-Branch
Rep. John Vines, D-Hot Springs
Rep. Barry Hyde, D-North Little Rock
Sen. Steve Harrelson, D-Texarkana
Sen. Jeremy Hutchinson, R-Little Rock
Sen. David Johnson, D-Little Rock
Sen. Eddie Joe Williams, R-Cabot
Rev. Carl Hunter, Little Rock
Bishop Sam Wherry, Monticello
Rev. Melvin Graves, Pine Bluff