To This Farmer, Quiet Living Is Worth More Than a Fortune

GEORGE PERRY knows he gave up an opportunity to make a lot of money by selling a few hundred acres of his farm to casino executives.

``I was offered as high as $2 million for 200 acres. But we passed on it,'' says this straight-talking farmer. ``I don't think it's worth it. If I wanted to live in Las Vegas, I'd move to Las Vegas.''

Mr. Perry is the third generation in his family to farm this fertile land along the Mississippi River. Not much had changed here through the generations, until two years ago when a casino opened a mile from Perry's home.

When he first heard about casinos crowding out cotton here, Perry never fathomed what it would bring. ``I didn't know there were that many fools in the whole world,'' he says, remembering the flood of people when Splash Casino opened in October 1992.

Although things have slowed down since then, city folks - many of them drunk from the free liquor handed out by the casinos - are now more common here than the wild turkeys and deer that once dominated the landscape. Perry has to fight traffic getting to the 8,000 acres where he grows cotton, wheat, soybeans, and rice. Several of his cows have been killed by reckless drivers.

``Getting to and from the field with my farm equipment has become real dangerous,'' he says. ``People that come down here aren't used to this equipment on the road. They come at you 70 or 80 miles an hour, and you just have to get out of the way.''

His opposition to the casino development hasn't helped Perry's popularity in the community. Other landowners have given up farming, getting rich off a quick sale of what used to be low-priced land. The economic boost was badly needed, and many locals don't appreciate complaints about the environmental hazards and the traffic problems.

It's been a while since anyone came around offering thousands of dollars an acre for Perry's land. The new casinos 10 miles north are giving the ones near his farm a run for their money.

At one point, there were four casinos operating here. But two have closed or moved to new locations. Now, the pioneering Splash Casino is considering moving up north near the county line.

``I hope it all goes away even though it would decrease the land value,'' Perry says. ``I'm not in the market for selling land. Peace of mind and quality of life mean a whole lot more to me.''

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