A bet on gambling in Memphis - FOX13 News, WHBQ FOX 13

A bet on gambling in Memphis

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (FOX13) -

Two Memphis lawmakers are trying their hand at bringing casinos to Shelby County.

The bills would set up a state legislative committee to examine the legality and economic impact of allowing casino gambling.

Casino gambling is outlawed by the Tennessee constitution, and a constitutional amendment would take years. Attempts to bring casinos to Shelby County failed in the past.

But State Rep. Larry Miller and State Sen. Reginald Tate, both Democrats, are rolling the latest set of dice to bring casinos by creating a committee which would study factors involved in permitting casino gambling.

But the odds don't play in their favor.

"I'm sure the faith community will speak out against this," said Rev. Dwight Montgomery, one of hundreds of church members who protested bringing casinos to Shelby County years ago. While he says many would fight the move due to biblical principles,  he's most concerned on family impact.

"Often times people become compulsive in gambling and it affects those families and that is not in the best interest of our city, or county, or state," Rev. Montgomery said.

The proposed committee would examine factors, like the legal hurdles and economic impact to allow casino gambling in Shelby County.    

"If we had a casino in Shelby County would that have a negative affect on our community, the answer is not likely," said James Whelan,  who operates a gambling treatment center at the University of Memphis. Most of the center's 500 clients head to Tunica's casinos in Mississippi but he notes a closer location would not make a difference.

"Gambling is readily available at the corner drug store, and right at your desktop if people would like to wager online," Whelan said. "There are plenty of ways to do that."

The gambling treatment center says only a small percentage of people who chose to bet, deal with gambling problems. They don't expect an increase in the number of gamblers, but say it would be easier access for those who struggle with gambling problems.

If the bill passes, the committee would present its finding in early 2014.

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