By Dr. Mark H. Creech
One day a man approached an acquaintance in a gambling casino and said, “Joe, can you give me $1,000. My wife is dying and needs a specialized medicine that can save her. Without it she’ll be dead by morning.”
Joe said, “Sid, I’d give you the money right away, but I’m worried that you’ll gamble it away.” Sid answered, “No, you don’t understand. Gambling money I’ve got!”
We may laugh, but it’s tragically humorous. Approximately 15 million Americans have a serious gambling problem. And the problem is not getting any better, only worsening with more gaming taking place across the country, North Carolina not excluded.
Unless ten or more lawmakers in the North Carolina House change their votes on the third reading of SB 582 Authorize Indian Gaming/Revenue, Tuesday, June 5, legislators will have approved a significant expansion of gambling in the Tar Heel state.
Contrary to the thinking of many today, gambling is inherently an immoral activity. One doesn’t even need to be addicted to gaming to be committing a sin.
It’s true that the Christian worldview contains no “Thou shalt not” with respect to playing the lottery or pulling the handle on a slot machine, etc.. But the Bible does contain many insights and principles that make it clear that the practice is always wrong.
For instance, the Christian worldview teaches the sovereignty of God over human affairs (Matthew 19:29-30); whereas gambling focuses on luck and chance. It teaches that man is to work creatively and diligently, not only to obtain his own property, but to provide for the needs of others (Ephesians 4:28). Gambling, sadly, fosters a something for nothing approach to life. The Bible teaches that we are required to be good stewards of what God has graciously provided; while gambling calls for a reckless abandon. Moreover, the very heart of the Christian worldview is love for God and love for one’s neighbor (Matthew 22:37-40), while gambling seeks personal gain and pleasure at the loss and pain of one’s neighbor.
Perhaps the most fundamental condemnation of gambling by the Scriptures is its prohibition against covetousness, which is a violation of the Tenth Commandment. Covetousness can be defined as an inordinate desire for money, property, or something that belongs to someone else. It’s when we want to take something from another without providing value for value.
The late Presbyterian minister, Dr. D. James Kennedy once explained, “Gambling is institutionalized covetousness…It undermines all of the basic character values of not only Christianity, but of the whole American free enterprise system. It undermines the values of work, thrift, honesty, saving, industry, creativity, perseverance, and patience.”
It was heartbreaking when lawmakers in the General Assembly approved by a large margin, 33-14 in the Senate and 66-49 in the House, a new compact with the Eastern Band of Cherokee. The compact allows the Cherokee to add to their current video-based gaming, Class III, Las Vegas style games. It allows for multiple casinos, three to be exact, over a five county area – Jackson, Swain, Haywood, Graham and Cherokee. Of course, to make the agreement a little more palatable for those with objections to gambling, the proposal projects to create at least 400 jobs almost immediately and four to eight percent of the profits from the new games being allotted to fund state “education.” However, regardless of the promises of such a proposal, this is a really bad deal for North Carolina.
Experts on gambling tell us casinos are the most predatory industry in the country. Their very business model is based on addiction and pushing people into debt. According to “Winner Takes All” by Wall Street Journal reporter Christina Binkley, casinos make ninety percent of their profits from ten percent of the patrons who are addicted to the games they offer.
Granted, people can become addicted to anything. But why would state government, not simply permit, but join in partnership with an enterprise whose very business model is based on addiction and serious indebtedness? In other words, the business only works to profit if it enslaves – if it takes away the freedom of some of the people who play. People grossly in debt and suffering from addiction are not free. The primary purpose of government is to protect the freedom of its citizens and provide for the legal and economic climate where all can flourish – not to unite with something that capitalizes on their weaknesses – even when “virtu-ized” by some special cause like “education.”
What is more, just because something can provide jobs doesn’t make it right. Failed energy giant Enron, subprime lender Country Wide Financial, were both businesses that employed a lot of people and made great sums of money. Yet who believes these kinds of predatory business practices would be right for our state? I suggest the practices of the gambling industry, more specifically casinos, are no different in principle.
A few years ago, I was reading a biography about the life of D.L. Moody and I read about the Chicago fire of 1871. It was a terrible fire that consumed nearly the entire city. The supposed start of the fire was that Mrs. O’Leary’s cow kicked over the lantern. At least, that is what was thought to be the cause for many years, in spite of the fact that Mrs. O’Leary swore in court under oath she never went into the barn that night to milk her cow. She was, she said, in her bed asleep in the house.
So the cause of the fire has always been a bit of a mystery up until a few decades ago when a man by the name of Louis M. Cohn died and left an enormous amount of money to one of the local universities. Included with that money was a letter. Cohn said he was leaving the money in partial payment for the damage he had caused when he knocked over the lantern. He said, “I and some of my friends had gathered in the barn that night to shoot craps. I was winning and I got so excited, I knocked over the lantern.”
Now think of it. Cohn may have won a few dollars that evening, but thousands of people in Chicago lost everything – some even their lives. You know, I think that is a miniature picture of what gambling is like: A few people win, but a vast number of people lose. Many will lose everything they have. Some will even lose their lives.
Unless, matters turn around before now and Tuesday; the gaming industry will not only have shown its prowess in separating the sucker from his money, but it will have demonstrated its power in separating our lawmakers from good judgment.