Gambling and Question 7
When United Methodists head to the polls in November, Question 7 will ask whether they favor the expansion of commercial gaming in the State of Maryland for the primary purpose of raising revenue for education. As you make your decision, the BWC Board of Church and Society and conference Advocate Beth Reilly ask that you consider the following faith-based views, myths and facts on gambling.
WHAT DO OUR SOCIAL PRINCIPLES SAY ABOUT GAMBLING?
"Gambling is a menace to society, deadly to the best interests of moral, social, economic, and spiritual life, destructive of good government and good stewardship. As an act of faith and concern, Christians should abstain from gambling and should strive to minister to those victimized by the practice. Where gambling has become addictive, the Church will encourage such individuals to receive therapeutic assistance so that the individual's energies may be redirected into positive and constructive ends… The Church's prophetic call is to promote standards of justice and advocacy that would make it unnecessary and undesirable to resort to commercial gambling -- including public lotteries, casinos, raffles, Internet gambling, gambling with an emerging wireless technology and other games of chance -- as a recreation, as an escape, or as a means of producing public revenue or funds for support of charities or government." [—Social Principles of the United Methodist Church 2009-2012, IV. The Economic Community ¶163 G) “Gambling”]
WHAT DOES OUR GENERAL BOARD OF CHURCH AND SOCIETY SAY?
The Church's role in countering the expansion of gambling has been likened to David fighting Goliath. The overwhelming influence of gambling monies allows this industry access to all levels of government and extends even to elected public officials who benefit from contributions to their campaigns.
For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, and in their eagerness to be rich some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pains.
1 Timothy 6, NRSV
The church is often left a "voice crying in the wilderness" as states, counties, and cities look to gambling revenue as an answer to filling budget gaps. U.S. society does not want to pay for the services we expect from government, raising taxes is anathema while balancing state and local budgets through gambling is embraced.
Gambling is a terrible example of stewardship of the resources God gives us; it creates social costs that are hidden and often do not become apparent until long after lotteries, casinos, betting parlors and game rooms have become entrenched in communities.
The National Research Council found that "many families of pathological gamblers suffer from a variety of financial hardships" and "children of compulsive gamblers are more likely to engage in delinquent behaviors such as smoking, drinking, and using drugs" as well as an increased risk of becoming pathological gamblers.
MYTHS VS. FACTS
From: Stop Predatory Gambling http://stoppredatorygambling.org/facts-research/predatory-gambling-lies/
Government casinos and lotteries represent one of the biggest policy failures of the last fifty years and yet they survive in large part because they spend tens of millions of dollars promoting a false narrative to the public that includes:
MYTH: “Casinos and State Lotteries Will Improve Government Budgets”
FACTS: There is overwhelming evidence proving the government-promoted gambling has failed as a revenue source for our society. States with lotteries and casinos have not lowered their taxes and according to a recent national report by the Rockefeller Institute, it has made their budget problems even worse. It helps explain one of the reasons why so many casino states like California, New York, Pennsylvania, Illinois and Nevada face enormous budget deficits.
MYTH: “Predatory Gambling Creates Jobs”
FACT: Predatory gambling is a something-for-nothing scheme, a business based on people losing money.
MYTH: “People Will Gamble Anyway and They Are Already Doing It Out-of-State”
FACTS: While that may be true for a few, the evidence is irrefutable that gambling interests in partnership with our government have turned a nation of small savers into a nation of indebted habitual bettors. In 1982, citizens spent $4.2 billion at casinos and $2.2 billion on lottery tickets for a total of $6.4 billion. In 2008, citizens spent more than $120 billion – $32.54 billion at non-tribal casinos, $26.7 billion at Indian casinos and almost $61 billion on the state lottery. When less predatory gambling is available, people lose less money and gambling problems are less. For example, South Dakota outlawed video slot machines for 100 days; the number of gambling addicts treated monthly dropped to 93.5%.
MYTH: “Slot Machines Don’t Addict People”
FACTS: Electronic gambling machines like slots and video poker represent the purest form of predatory gambling and, not surprisingly, are the most profitable. According to the research findings of Natasha Schull, associate professor in MIT’s Program in Science, Technology, and Society, the machines are designed to get every user “to play to extinction’’ — until all their money is gone — by using technology described as a “high-tech version of loaded dice.”
According to Dr. Bob Breen, the Director of the Gambling Treatment Program at Rhode Island Hospital, “Given the right circumstances, almost anyone can get hooked on slots.” We must stop blaming people using gambling machines as the “problem” and instead, focus our attention on problem machines, problem environments and problem business practices.
MYTH: “Public Opinion Supports Predatory Gambling”
FACTS: The predatory gambling lobby points to polls paid for by predatory gambling interests. Independent surveys reveal the opposite is true. A 2010 national survey by PublicMind, Fairleigh Dickinson University’s research center, found that a majority of those with an opinion on the subject believe casinos hurt local communities. A 2010 USA Today poll showed that casinos rank at the top of the list next to garbage dumps for most unpopular projects with 73% of the citizens opposed.
MYTH: “Casinos and Lotteries Are Just Like Any Other Business”
FACTS: Advocates of the predatory gambling trade say they are no different than other businesses. They describe it the same as “drinking wine, going out to a restaurant or going to the movies.” Yet the owner of the vineyard drinks the wine he makes. The owner of the restaurant eats the food he serves. The movie actress watches the movies she makes. This is the only product or service where most of the people who own it and promote it, including public officials, don’t use it and don’t want to live near it.