Set Us Free From Gambling

Recreation or Abomination?

In 1973 California Governor Ronald Reagan said, “I would hate to see legalized gambling in California, nor do I favor a lottery. We ought to finance the state by the strength of our people and not by their weaknesses.”

Look where time and legalization has taken us! A once golden state now teeters on the ragged edge of bankruptcy and thousands of families lives have been adversely affected by gambling addiction. The majority of politicians have gambled away our future and given us gambling outlets that are daily destroying families lives and their futures. We have fed a growing monster that now feeds on us and is protected and courted by most of our politicians.

Trouble spelled with a capital T is right here in river city! It is gambling in our town and all around our country and the world. Its subtle, invasive, destructive and addictive forces are evident in many communities around the world. Even church goers are participants with the rationalization that gambling is “harmless recreation”. It is no longer a matter of legality, but one of morality for those who choose to know the facts and are committed to wise stewardship.

There can be no denying that gambling destroys families. Gambling in any form is designed to separate people from their money. It is a deadly sly fox, an equal opportunity predator to the weak and the poor. Like pornography, gambling knows no boundaries and in its many forms exploits weakness, destroys children, families, marriages and dramatically increases suicides. It is no secret that greed, money, power and corruption are the drivers behind the gambling machine.

My neighbor recently shared this shocking story of his Uncle Ben, age 60, who regularly took his paychecks from his sales work and gambled them away. Ben was intelligent and excelled in his work. The gambling became an addiction that led him to jail for taking company sales proceeds to supplement that gambling habit. His last job was tending gas pumps for his nephew, my neighbor. With each pay check, Ben was off again to gamble it all away. He became depressed with mounting debts and losses. One day when Ben did not show up for work, his nephew found him dead. He took his own life with a bullet from his hunting rifle, in his garage. Ben’s life came to a tragic end as a direct result of his gambling addiction. Left behind were shocked and grieving family and friends whose lives will never be quite the same.

Another neighbor, who is a senior veteran member and investigator with the Police Department, told me that there is a corollary relationship between gambling and increased crime, suicide and substance abuse. The stories propagated by the gambling proponents and beneficiaries hype the “benefits of gaming” to gain community acceptance, when in reality the landscape is strewn with the untold stories of broken and destroyed lives. The cost to all of us is far greater than the much heralded benefits.

It is well documented from credible, scientifically conducted studies that gambling destroys families, undermines the work ethic, increases crime, motivates suicide, destroys financial security of individuals and families. Gambling has a major impact on the social and emotional well-being of any community. The social costs for all of us far offset the so called “benefits” in the attempt to buy public support and “sweep under the rug” the reality stories of its destructive effects.

Can responsible citizens be silent? Is this form of “entertainment and recreation”justified at the expense of the poor, the broken lives and families destroyed? Is gambling wise stewardship? More than 100 million Americans gamble $billions per year according to the Congressional Commission report. The estimates in the USA alone are $90 billion each year and that does not include unrecorded gambling and gaming. Globally estimates range from $600 to $900 billion each year. Many of these gamblers claim to be religious. Gambling, which often is motivated by a get rich quick greed, pain, boredom or desperation has a price. The price for love of money is high, but the price as applied to gambling is exacting a much higher price for many people in social costs, relational loss and productivity in our communities.

Is “the love of money is the root of all evil.” It is not the money but the love of money that spells Trouble with a capital T. If you love money, you will pay a high price for that obsession. We have inverted God’s divine order: We love things (money and the “toys” it buys), and we use people. God loves people and has created things for our enjoyment and careful stewardship. We tend to replace our confidence in God by the false hope of a lucky shot at gambling. People who forsake the Lord base their lives on luck and self-gratification. In contrast, God’s children live by His providence and operate by purposeful living and prayer, not by chance but by choice.”You cannot serve both God and money” according to Biblical reference Matthew 6:24.

Gambling is not a partisan issue. Too few have thoughtfully and objectively reviewed the research and seen the powerful negative impact of gambling on people especially those vulnerable to this hyped and glamorous get rich quick appeal. Increasingly, our politicians -federal, state and local- and the media are being seduced into embracing gambling as an easy means to generate revenue with little regard to the destructive gradualism bought by the “harmless recreation” of legalized gambling.

Some of our politicians, community leaders, service clubs, and even police and public schools, are turning their heads by directly or indirectly promoting projects that receive funding from “washed money” sent through community non-profit foundations and organizations to be doled out to the community. This is gambling money taken mostly from those who cannot afford it. For example a teenage neighbor came to our door selling raffle tickets for a local public school project. The tickets were chances to win 100 lotto tickets. How subtle the conditioning, having our minor children promoting gambling to support their band uniform purchases.

This author has interviewed many family members whose lives have been shattered and homes and jobs lost from subtle gambling addictions which include the growing private internet and highly addictive video lottery gambling. Few if any of these stories make the newspapers or TV newscasts.

A National Gambling Impact Commission report cites the need for a moratorium on the expansion of gambling in the U.S.; a ban on internet gambling; prohibition of gambling under age 21 and State curbs on the flood of political contributions pouring out of what has become a multi- billion per year business. Think of what those billions could do in real productive stimulus jobs or even credit to small businesses that employ 80% of our people.

Casino trips with free transportation and bingo nights may offer retirees and welfare recipients with check cashing privileges and the opportunity for a social and “recreational” outlet, but gambling, like illicit drugs, often entraps the poor and elderly gamblers to wager more than they can afford, according to the study.

The National Gambling Impact Commission report demands urgent action. It indicates that the gambling explosion has produced an increasingly massive flow of support for politicians. It calls for a much overdue reform and moratorium.

Locally, the tentacles of local and national casino and lotto sales gambling run far and deep into the very heart of the well-being of our communities. Like runaway cancer, it permeates and subtly saps the life from our most important resource- our people. Gambling destroys families and futures. Gambling is designed to separate the patrons from their money.Obviously, they don’t value the people over their money. For the poor, it appears to be a “ticket out of poverty.” In reality it is a road to misery and poverty entrenchment. Watch the traffic pick up at the Casino and lottery counters with free shuttle service to the door when the welfare and social security checks arrive. Free bus service and check cashing assure patrons arrival at the slippery slope to addiction.

Ask your politicians if they have been offered money for their campaigns generated from the pockets of the poor and seniors patronizing casinos and other gambling sales outlets. Some have accepted the offers of financial support. Newspapers tend to remove any negative references to casinos because of the revenue provided from their advertising. Caring and informed citizens need to hold them accountable for the implied support and protection of this gambling enterprise that grows at the expense of the poor, senior citizens and families in your community.

Where are the leaders, the editors and the citizens with courage to speak up and reveal the truth and the proof that gambling puts people in harms way and at risk? Who points us to better alternatives?

One alternative could be that the multibillions expended for gambling could end poverty worldwide in just five years in micro finace loan funding according to the calculations of an international development Foundation which specializes in poverty alleviation. If the gambling dollars were harnessed for real job creation, the increased productivity would do more to create jobs and build economies than all the combined gambling industry would do in a century. Would not this alternative be more consistent with with the best stewardship? The dollars that go into gambling are dollars displaced from legitimate hard working business people. Can you think of a better form of greed replacement? Would not God, and our communities and each of us, be better honored and served with such an alternative?

Until we acknowledge gambling for what it is we will not reverse the growing trend toward this quicksand entrapment and waste. It is a growing menace and abomination to the well-being and quality of life in any communities across America.

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