Residents worry Arkansas lottery could lead to gambling

WEST MEMPHIS, AR (WMC-TV) - Arkansas voters approved a measure creating a lottery Tuesday, overturning a ban in the state's constitution that has existed since 1874.

With a lottery now coming to the state, some are worried it will open the door to gambling.

Cavalry Baptist Church Pastor Gary Hair was not happy that two-thirds of Arkansas voters voted "yes" to a state lottery.

Though it would fund college scholarships, he said, it hurts the poor.

"We know statistically that poorer people are more prone to participate in the lottery.  It hurts their families, wrecks their families and then they end up coming back needing help," Hair said.

State Representative Denny Stumper understands both standpoints, but said Arkansas must find a way to fund education better.

"You have an extreme amount of money, $60,000,000 to $100,000,000 that could go to the state to fund higher education. Which is tremendous," Stumper said.

West Memphis has long struggled over similar issues. In recent years, Southland Park has added new gaming machines, after a long and bitter battle. Southland says its machines are not to be confused with casino slots, but some local pastors see things differently.

And while some also say that a lottery is not gambling, Pastor Hair disagrees.

"It's not a true industry.  It does not produce a product," Hair said.

Along with the new lottery, a new push is emerging in the faith-based community to propose a law to forbid casinos in Arkansas.

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