By Hunter Hines
Christian Action League
April 5, 2019
RALEIGH – The Senate Rules Committee passed legislation to allow sports betting and horse race wagering on Thursday. The bill, SB 154 – Allow Sports/Horse Race Wagering Tribal Lands, was the last stop for the measure on the Senate side before being referred to the full Senate for a vote on Tuesday, April 9th.
The bill had already cleared the Senate Commerce and Insurance Committee. The Christian Action League reported on this last week in Mixed Beverages Election, Sports Wagering, and Gaming Nights Considered by State Lawmakers.
Sports wagering is defined as the placing of wages on the outcome of professional and collegiate sports contests. Horse race wagering involves fixed odds or parimutuel wagering on thorougbred, harness or other racing of horses, including simulcasting and off track betting.
Currently in North Carolina law, only the following types of games are legally conducted on lands that are held in trust by the United States government on behalf of the Cherokee nation:
- Gaming machines
- Live table games
- Video games
Sen. Jim Davis (R-Cherokee), the primary sponsor of SB 154 explained to the committee that the allowance of sports and horse race wagering in this case would not be state-wide, but must occur at the Casinos in Cherokee.
Although the sports and horse race wagering is confined to Indian lands, the Christian Action League opposes the measure because it is an expansion gambling.
Rev. Mark Creech, executive director of the Christian Action League said, “Gambling has enormous consequences, socially, culturally, economically, politically, and spiritually. At the risk of sounding hyperbolic, but I don’t believe it is, gambling has deadly consequences for many.”
According to Baker’s Dictionary of Christian Ethics, “Gambling in the sense of transferring something of value from one person to another on the basis of chance is not sanctioned by the Scriptures. The New Testament view of work, stewardship, love of neighbor, and the proper use of influence rule out the practice of gambling (II Thess. 3:10-12; Eph. 4:28; I Cor. 10:23; Gal. 5:13-14; Matt. 22:37; I Thess. 5:22; Rom. 12:9).”
Sen. Jerry Tillman (R-Randolph) lauded the bill and made a motion for its favorable report.
Tillman argued gambling for the Cherokee had completely revived the area economically.
Tillman said, “If we give them the chance to expand their gambling operations, it’ll only bring in more money, more economic development for that area.” He invited people to visit Cherokee and take a look and see for themselves.
Ironically, Tillman added, “And take plenty of money with you. Seriously, I found out how to bring a small fortune back from there. You take a large one up there.” Tillman’s remarks precipitated a hearty laugh from committee members.
After Tillman had spoken, public input was allowed and Sen. Harry Brown (R-Onslow), chairman of the Rules committee, called on Rev. Creech to speak.
Creech made the following somber speech:
“I will keep my remarks short. I have waited until this moment to speak to this measure, not because I have any expectations that anything I say will stop it, but because as a Minister and a representative of the faith community, I believe I have a duty to speak about what few others will.
“I am shocked at the number of gambling initiatives filed this session in the General Assembly. But then again, I shouldn’t be.
“As Rex M. Rogers says in his book, Seducing America:
“‘Gambling has entered mainstream culture today because of a collapse of taboos. The question is, who pushed over the taboos?” It is not a national craze because unscrupulous gambling tycoons got into bed with money-grubbing legislators. It is not mainstream because of a mob conspiracy. Perhaps these things happened along the way, but the real source of gambling fever is the American people.’
“We’ve shifted away from ‘certain bedrock beliefs.’ ‘We’ve lost faith in the idea that individuals can really influence their destiny by their own efforts’ We’re less confident than ever in our ability to control our own destiny. The spread of gambling is ‘correlated with social pessimism.’ It ‘flourishes in cultures where people no longer believe they can influence the present, much less the future.’ It is borne from ‘a mood of despair, powerlessness, and hopelessness…we’re casting about looking for good fortune to shine on us, hoping somehow we’ll get lucky.’”
“Every time we pass a gambling bill like this one, we are exacerbating and passing on this fatalistic and superstitious approach to governing life, because the law is not simply a reflection of us, but it is a teacher, a generator, of who we become in future generations.
“I’ll close with this warning by Rogers, “A civilization cannot survive for very long…on wishful thinking and illusions.”
“It would be a remarkable show of leadership if this body today would say ‘no’ to this bill.”
John Rustin, president of the North Carolina Family Policy Council, also spoke strongly against the measure.
Tillman took umbrage with opposition to the bill, saying: “If what we just heard is the norm and what we want this state to do…I’m going to get a bill together, Sen. Brown, to do away with the stock market. We can’t participate in the stock market. That’s gambling! And a pretty high order of gambling that’s legal. If I go up and play the slot machines for an hour or two, put $100 in there, I want that to be illegal. Folks, it’s a gamble if you walk across Jones Street here [the street directly in front of the legislative building]. Life is a gamble and nobody is putting a gun to your head to make you go do that. You do it voluntarily.”
Sen. Ralph Hise (R-Mitchell) also defended the initiative arguing that the federal government had imposed gambling on the state when it required North Carolina to partner with the Cherokee in the gambling enterprise.
“I believe that this bill is merely a recognition of the sovereignty and authority of the tribe, and their ability to choose what they will do on their tribal lands,” said Hise. For this reason he said he supported the bill.
Hise added that he resented the federal government’s imposition of gambling on the state.
The bill passed unanimously by a voice vote.
After the meeting, Creech said that he had tremendous respect for both Tillman and Hise, but didn’t agree with their assessment.
“Unfortunately, the argument that life is a gamble or that gambling is like the stock market is one of the most specious arguments one could make in defense of gambling,” said Creech. “All gambling involves risks, but not all risks are gambling. Gambling is an artificially contrived risk. Yes, life involves risks, but normal risks are not the same as artificial risks, neither are they in any manner moral equivalents. Gambling is an artificially contrived risk, one where the acquistion of money depends on the luck of the draw, with one’s gain related to the loss of his neighbor. And try telling the people who get caught up in it and become addicted to gambling that it’s voluntary.”
“Furthermore,” said Creech, “While there is some risk in buying stocks, it’s not considered just pure chance. If I purchase an insurance policy that involves some risks too, both the stock market and buying insurance would involve a calculated risk, one where the risks are significantly reduced, one that is primarily a matter of knowledge, effort, and skill. Chance is not a controlling factor. No one wants me to say this but it is a fact. The Cherokee have accumulated great prosperity from gambling, but it’s been at the expense of others. Their prosperity has been built on exploitation, which causes life-changing financial losses for millions of people. In our compact with the Cherokee, the federal government’s requirements do not stipulate that we allow them to expand their forms of gambling to include sports wagering and horse race betting.”