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Ark. gambling amendment fails; leader hopes issue ‘put to rest’

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (BP)–Arkansas voters soundly defeated a constitutional amendment Nov. 7 to establish a state lottery and allow casinos in six Arkansas counties. With most of the votes counted, 356,277 had opposed the amendment while 204,204 had supported it, a 64-36 percent margin.

Arkansas Baptists worked hard to get out the vote to defeat the gambling initiative. Larry Page, executive director of the Arkansas Faith and Ethics Council, expressed appreciation for Baptist churches and associations that helped to rally opposition to the amendment.

“We’re very grateful,” Page said. “It was a terrible piece of public policy that would grant an unregulated monopoly to a private company. This should put to rest for the foreseeable future any efforts to legalize gambling in Arkansas.”

A similar proposal in 1996 was defeated by a 61 percent to 39 percent margin.

“Both Baptists and non-Baptists realized it was a bad way to finance public policy,” said Emil Turner, executive director of the Arkansas Baptist State Convention. “Southern Baptists are tremendously grateful for the effective leadership of Larry Page in helping to defeat legalized gambling in our state.”

For months prior to the election, Page and his organization held news conferences and public rallies and spoke in churches and associational meetings to rally opposition. They also worked across denominational lines to gather support from other Christian groups.

Page noted the victory was due to manpower, not money. While the gambling industry poured huge financial resources into the proposed amendment, the Arkansas Faith and Ethics Council spent only about $50,000 toward its defeat.

Several Baptist Associations in Arkansas passed resolutions opposing the amendment. The ABSC, in annual meeting the week before the election, also approved a resolution which stated, “Gambling is an activity that violates the biblical principles of the sovereignty of God, the work ethic, not coveting another’s possessions, rejecting materialism, protecting the weak and vulnerable, and loving our neighbors as ourselves.”

The resolution called for messengers to “restate our opposition to gambling” and to “firmly and enthusiastically oppose the disastrous public policy represented by Amendment 5 by casting our votes against” it.

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  • Charlie Warren