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Gambling opponents succeed against lottery, pari-mutuel betting in Tenn.


NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)– Tennessee remains free of legal gambling.
The gambling industry received a major blow May 1 as Tennessee legislators voted against a lottery and an effort to reinstate the state Racing Commission, which was established 11 years ago to license and regulate pari-mutuel horse racing but is set to close June 30.
Senators voted 16-14 to end the Racing Commission. Proponents needed 17 votes to reinstate it. Without the commission, plans for a $15 million horse track and simulcast facility in Memphis cannot proceed.
Two efforts to remove the lottery ban from the state constitution failed on the last day of the 100th General Assembly.
A resolution that would have put the lottery question on the November ballot died on the Senate floor by failing to gain the 22 votes needed to pass. The vote was 16-15.
A proposed constitutional convention to remove the lottery ban from the state constitution, meanwhile, failed to come out of the Senate Finance Committee where five members consistently voted against it.
Prior to the last day, the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Wayne Crutchfield of Chattanooga, considered using a discharge petition which would free the bill from the committee for full Senate vote.
Crutchfield needed only 17 votes to bring the proposed constitutional convention to the Senate floor, but The Chattanooga Times reported May 2 that Crutchfield’s Senate colleagues “fearing that skipping past the committee process would set a bad precedent, declined to support him.” Crutchfield vowed, however, he would try again next year.
Bill Bates, Tennessee Baptist Convention public affairs consultant, expressed appreciation to everyone who made phone calls, wrote letters or contacted legislators in any way. “I believe we had more people involved throughout the state than we ever had before,” he said.
Bates also cited the efforts of Bobbie Patray and Eagle Forum and Ann Bennett of Sullivan Baptist Association for their efforts against gambling in the state.
Bennett, chairman of the association’s Christian life department and member of Indian Springs Baptist Church, Kingsport, also thanked those who worked against the effort to legalize gambling in the state.
Both Bates and Bennett warned, however, gambling opponents cannot rest now.
“We must not go to sleep and think the victories this year have settled it,” Bates said. With Crutchfield’s vow for the next legislative session, Bates said, “we need to make our people more aware of the dangers of the lottery, horse racing and all of those things that can destroy our families.”
Bates also encouraged education in churches. “We need our churches to begin having sessions regarding gambling and how it can affect all of our lives,” he said.
Bennett noted “as we thank God we cannot let this victory be lost. We must hold the legislators who voted for gambling accountable for their votes in the primaries in August and the November elections.”
And, she continued, it is important to support those legislators who “were God’s ministers for the good.”
“As Christian citizens we must not turn our backs on those who withstood political pressure and voted with us on this issue,” Bennett said, noting “gamblers know how to count votes. They will be involved in the elections. … (The)gambling industry would like to change a few seats for their benefit too.”

    About the Author

  • Lonnie Wilkey
    Lonnie Wilkey is editor of the Baptist and Reflector (baptistandreflector.org), newsjournal of the Tennessee Baptist Convention.Read All by Lonnie Wilkey ›