Gambling Away Our Future

Americans may be finally waking up to the dangers of legalized gambling and, ironically, it's not Christians who are leading the charge to help Americans understand why we'd be better off without slot machines and casinos: The government is—and it's giving us an historic opportunity to work to turn back this pernicious evil. This week, members of the federal gambling commission, created to study the effects of gambling, voted 5-4 to urge states to declare a moratorium on new casinos, lotteries, and slot machines until it can assess gambling's full impact on society. This is great news. Up until now, the opposition to the spread of gambling has been led largely by Christians, who are often stereotyped as Victorian prudes who disapprove of gambling because it's a sin, or who want to impose their morality on others. But now we have some real ammunition. For the first time, an independent, bipartisan commission appointed by the president and Congress has studied this issue and said: Whoa! It's time to put the brakes on gambling because we've discovered the social costs of gambling may be simply too high to pay. These costs have often been swept under the rug by pro-gambling lobbyists who hide gambling's corrosive effects behind promises of glittering gains. Does your town need economic development or funding for education? Open a casino. Or let the government come in and run video poker, keno, or lotteries. And then the gambling lobbyists shamelessly load the campaign coffers of certain politicians to lock in their support. But the fact is that gambling is a magnet for crime. Police chiefs across the country warn that crime has a way of following wherever gambling is introduced—even in small towns. That's because compulsive gamblers will commit everything from property crime to armed robbery to get their hands on cash with which to gamble. And gambling addiction often leads to family breakdown. Today 37 states run lotteries, 21 have casino gambling, and all but two states allow gambling of one kind or another. The pathologies associated with it have spread far and wide—and that's why gambling is not just a personal matter. It is the public's business. Columnist George Will has argued that if we choose to harm ourselves with things like alcohol, well, that's our own business, and the government ought not to intrude. But if many people get drunk and begin killing each other on the roads or having accidents at work, that becomes society's business—and the government has a right to intervene. That's the case now with gambling, and we Christians have got to take the lead to work for legislative solutions. And we must work just as hard to make a convincing apologetic—that is, to persuade our fellow citizens that gambling undermines the social order and rips off the poor, who are the most vulnerable. The latest news from the government gambling commission is exciting, because it will give us great ammunition. We need to let lawmakers and our fellow citizens know that when it comes to the so-called benefits of gambling, we know a lie when we hear one.  


Chuck Colson



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