Faith leaders voice opposition to Issue 4 casino amendment at Arkansas Capitol

    October 28, 2018

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    Tim Yarbrough
    Arkansas Baptist News

    LITTLE ROCK – Faith leaders from across the state voiced opposition to Issue 4 at a press conference Oct. 29 the Arkansas Capitol saying the constitutional amendment is a social and moral issue that will wreck families and ruin lives.

    The group released a statement signed by more than 100 ministers and other leaders through Jerry Cox president of Family Council. Those signing the statement included Mike Huckabee former pastor and Arkansas governor; Ronnie Floyd senior pastor of Cross Church in northeast Arkansas and Greg Sykes senior pastor of First Baptist Church Russellville and president of the Arkansas Baptist State Convention (ABSC).

    “Casino gambling is tied to crime bankruptcy homelessness domestic violence divorce and suicide” the statement released by the group said. “Countless children have gone hungry and been neglected living in poverty because of a parent’s gambling addiction.”

    The statement added “It is our sincere conviction that legalizing casino gambling in Arkansas will harm the families and communities we are called to serve. As Christians we are instructed to love our neighbors as we love ourselves. Issue 4 would hurt our neighbors and their loved ones. For this reason we oppose Issue 4 and we hope that other Arkansans will as well.”

    Larry Page executive director of the Arkansas Faith and Ethics Council which receives funding from the ABSC told the Arkansas Baptist News the amendment is bad for Arkansas.

    “Issue 4 is a virtual power grab from outside gaming interests” said Page. “They talk about in their advertising these will be destination casinos they will not. They will be regional casinos. Most of the gamblers will come from nearby the casinos. The problems with gambling will grow exponentially and the communities there will need to clean up the mess."

    Page said if Issue 4 is approved the residents of Jefferson Pope Crittenden and Garland Counties will “have no additional say in whether casinos are established in their counties.”

    “(The outside interests) have no more say in this than any other voter in Arkansas. We content these are not Arkansas values. This is not the way we treat our neighbors in Arkansas.”

    Citizens For A Better Pope County (CFABPC) successfully petitioned and got an initiative (County Ordinance 2018-0-42) on the Nov. 6 ballot that will ensure the voters of Pope County determine whether or not a casino is built in the county. The group has placed advertisements in newspapers statewide opposing Issue 4.

    Jim Knight a member of First Baptist Church Russellville and president of the CFABPC
    Said Pope County voters should decide if a casino is built in their county but that his deeper conviction as a follower of Christ is that gambling is wrong and not conducive to human flourishing.

    “Russellville to me … has always been a God-first community. It was and still is an ideal place to raise a family” said Knight. “That could become more challenging because of all the things that a casino would bring in – things that are in direct conflict with what God’s Word says.”

    A study by the National Institute of Mental Health says 4.2 million Americans are addicted to gambling with 60 percent of that number with an annual income of less than $25000 Rep. Vivian Flowers of Pine Bluff said in a statement provided to media. 

    Jesse C. Turner a pastor and president of the Pine Bluff Faith Community Coalition Ministerial Alliance said he believes those promoting Issue 4 have targeted Pine Bluff because of its high black or African American population and because 33 percent of the population live below the poverty line “without jobs and needing money.”

    “Issue 4 is only a mirage which will only increase crime home foreclosures and other family disruptions” Turner said.

    Messengers attending the Oct. 23-24 ABSC Annual Meeting unanimously approved a resolution that encouraged all Arkansas voters to vote against Issue 4. Messengers further committed to restore and rehabilitate individuals who are involved in “problem gambling” and also provide a “safety net” for the gamblers’ families and communities if Issue 4 is approved in the Nov. 6 election.

    Contact Tim Yarbrough at