An insidious evil has been visited on our state. It’s brought with it the expected blight of financial ruin and leaves in its aftermath the rubble of broken homes and broken lives. And it is an addiction of the worst kind. As with all addictions, it doesn’t just affect the addicted, it affects everyone who is around them. It drives them to the destruction of all they hold dear, irreparably damaging reputations in the workplace, and irrevocably destroying family relationships and lifelong friendship.
In my travels in our state, I’ve seen the attractive buildings – the beckoning billboards – and read the advertisements for the best of the best in the entertainment world – and seen the extraordinary prices offered at their buffets. Despite a great public outcry against it, over the past couple of years we’ve seen off-track betting parlors, the lottery, and now the advent of casino gambling come to Louisiana.
In grocery stores, gas stations, and “quick stops” across the Bayou State there is a Friday afternoon line-up at the checkout as the family grocery money goes to take a chance and hope for the big lottery, while using the kids’ lunch money to purchase some additional scratch-and-win tickets. A struggling single parent has a few bucks left over when she pays for her gas mid-week and joins the foray into the “Pick Three” nightly drawing.
So, what’s wrong with that? The lottery has contributed some big money into our state coffers. In Louisiana, riverboat gambling brought increased revenues to the New Orleans area. (Though, if they were honest they would admit some of the increase resulted from increased motel/hotel and food costs in that city.) But, I will say again what I have said before, Something cannot be politically right if it is morally wrong. Casino gambling, the lottery, off-track betting, or on-track betting for that matter will not pass Biblical muster.
Far more than economic revenue is at stake when gambling is the issue. There appear to be benefits. These supposed advantages will never compensate for the detrimental effects on the social order. Inevitably the fallout from the advent of gambling in our state will be broken homes, blighted lives, criminal activity, twisted values, social decline, moral corruption. U. S. News & World Report carried this interesting assessment of the issue from Harry Reid, Chairman of the Nevada Gambling Control Commission, “Any state trying to follow Nevada’s lead will find that social costs far outweigh any economic benefits.”
Gambling was not a widespread mania during Bible times. There wasn’t an off-track betting parlor on the outskirts of Bethany. There was no riverboat gambling on the Jordan. However, God’s Word does, as one writer put it, “condemn the substitution of Lady Luck for divine guidance.” God stands in opposition to those, “…who forsake the Lord, who forget my holy mountain, who set a table for Fortune and fill cups of mixed wine for Destiny” (Isaiah 65:11 RSV). The deities mentioned here, Fortune and Destiny, were the pagan gods of Fate who served as symbols of good luck and bad luck.
When you legalize gambling, you change the image, but not the character. It will always be basically dishonest and deceptive. Gambling has been made to appear respectable in some circles, but it is no more honorable than a dice game in a back alley.
Probably the most notorious incident of the crass wickedness of gambling occurred at the foot of the cross. In the light of Calvary, then and now, every sin is exposed for its true color. While Jesus Christ gave His life’s blood for human redemption, Roman soldiers had a dice game under his feet. While He was staking His very life’s blood to save them, they were casting lots for his seamless robe. It happened before He died, not afterwards. He had to watch their crass greed. Could it be the last thing He saw before His Calvary sacrifice was a dice game? Jesus saw them gamble and He always sees what we do. Think of the terrible paradox. While Jesus was giving all he had, they were taking all they could. This was in fulfillment of the Scriptures, “They parted my garments among them and upon my vesture did they cast lots” (Matthew 27:35).
A prominent layman in a Baptist church in Louisiana shared an excellent insight from his former pastor. He observed that the Bible condemns gambling because the final prohibition of the Ten Commandments is “Thou shalt not covet.” All gambling is a form of covetousness, avarice, and greed.
Again, you ask, what’s really wrong with gambling? One writer answered that question quite simply. He said, “I wish to remind you that gambling is wrong because it violates the Ten Commandments, the Golden Rule, the Work Ethic, Personal Dignity, and Social Justice. There is a difference between a wasteful pastime and a sinister obsession. You realize that gambling is not a solution to our economic problems but just an illusion of something for nothing.” Gambling is the god of illusion. Most assuredly, the god of North America is the god of greed.
Gambling has become a multi-billion dollar industry or racket in this country. According to Forbes Magazine, the estimated income of organized crime from illegal gambling in one year alone was $30 billion. Some estimate that’s only about half of what American wagered in that year. Do you wonder that those who prey upon an unwary segment of our society reach further into American life like the tentacles of a giant octopus? You are talking about mega-bucks, which has a way of attracting organized crime.
Once you drag the trojan horse into the city, the fallout has just begun. Such an opinion is confirmed by a statement from the Massachusetts Crime Commission: “There is considerable evidence to indicate that legislation of gambling represented a greater boom to the mob than prohibition.”
Americans are learning the hard way that there is no free lunch – and Louisianians in particular are in the midst of their own lessons. Those who subscribe to the old cliche’ of “something for nothing” will likely find it just the reverse in gambling. It isn’t something for nothing, but nothing for something. You don’t even receive back what you invest in this sinister racket. Something that troubles me deeply in my conscience is this question: Why would a nation that claims to be interested in the welfare of all it’s people dangle an illusive prize of a million dollar jackpot or perhaps twenty million, before the minds of people who struggle to have enough to eat and to wear?
Who are the people most victimized by the gambling mania? “Critics also say that gambling preys on those who can afford it least – persons with low incomes. A study of Michigan players confirms that people with less spend a bigger percentage of their small incomes on the lottery.” What are the odds of people cashing in on a huge bonanza?
According to Larry Braidfoot, of the Southern Baptist Christian Life Commission, who has researched legalized gambling for the last two years, very little is ever said about the tremendous odds against winning. Then he cites two current examples: “An official of the New York Lottery admitted the odds of being struck by lightning – 1 in 2 million – were better than the 1 in 3.5 million odds of winning that state’s recent 22.1 million dollar jackpot.” In the same article appeared this information, “In Ohio, where the recent lottery jackpot of 27 million dollars made national headlines, the odds were even greater – about one in 9 million.
Carefully consider the refutation of those claims contained in national magazines, cited by the Louisiana Moral and Civic Foundation. In U.S. News and World Report, “Legalized gambling, as it spreads from state to state, is not reaping the huge benefits expected from legalized gambling.” An article published in Business Week stated, “Legalized gambling is an ineffectual and inequitable way to raise revenues.” According to an article in the Wall Street Journal, “Legalized gambling just doesn’t work out as it’s proponents promise.”
Is there a link between organized crime and gambling? The answer is an unqualified yes. Officials in this nefarious business will loudly protest that they are not affiliated with organized crime. What are the facts? Sean McWeeney, Chief, Organized Crime Section, Criminal Investigation Division, F.B.I., would not agree with such misleading propaganda. He states, “Gambling is among the major sources of revenue for organized crime. It provides the seed money for the drug traffic.”
It is a well-documented fact that Las Vegas continues year after year to have the highest per capita crime rate of that nation. Some of the tragedies from wholesale gambling in the state of Nevada need to be recognized. Did you know that Nevada, which leads the nation in gambling, has the highest suicide and homicide rates every year? That certainly sounds like fun and games, doesn’t it?
What about legalized gambling in New Jersey? In the Atlantic City area, there was a thirty-nine percent increase in crime during the first seven months following the opening of the first legal gambling casino. What are some of the attending problems with gambling which are not mentioned by the proponents? From extensive research done by the Louisiana Moral and Civic Foundation, comes the following information: “Unpaid bills, bankruptcy, embezzlement, employee pilferage, bad checks, and broken families often accompany gambling according to a number of sources including Dunn’s of Dunn & Bradstreet.”
A reporter for a prominent magazine was sent to Atlantic City to do a survey on what gambling had done to enhance that city. After collecting his baggage at the airport, the first person he saw to talk with was his cab driver. When he got in, he asked the taxi driver this one question, “What has gambling in Atlantic City meant to you?” The man stopped the cab, turned around, and looked at him. He said, “I’ll tell you what it’s meant to me. It’s turned my daughter into a hooker, and my son into a pimp.” With those words, he turned around and drove on.
The story is yet to be told of what the full effects of gambling on our beloved Bayou State. In my judgment, gambling will never substitute for good government, strong leadership, sound management, and honest work. Is it worth the gamble? Not on your life!