Thursday, February 25, 2010

Gambling's Slippery Slope

“Then He said to them, ‘Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.’ ” (Luke 12:15, NIV)

The casinos in Tunica have been advertising on Birmingham radio stations again, but this time they have taken it to a new low. The commercials are encouraging listeners to “catch the fever” so they can they can “call in sick” and take a trip to the other side of Mississippi instead of going to work. So, in addition to leading people in breaking the first commandment, they are now encouraging potential customers to break the ninth as well.

What depths of depravity is our society coming to? Is it not enough that we as Christians tolerate, and even encourage our children to watch, television programming that portrays parents as incompetent idiots? Is it not enough that many of today’s TV commercials would have been too risqué for late night just 20 years ago? Must we now confuse our too-often mind-numbed youth further by encouraging them to lie as well?

What is truly sad is that more Christians aren’t bothered by this. For a large part, we don’t even notice anymore how modern entertainment, especially something as innocuous as a radio commercial, is contributing to the cynicism (at best) and corruption (at worst) of our children. But I digress.

More importantly, we are currently fighting a battle against legalized gambling here in Alabama. Despite the fact that the people of my great State have voted against legalized gambling and the lottery two times in my adult life, the ones who will profit the most are stirring up the ill-educated masses again with the cry, “Let us vote!” They have quickly forgotten how recently it was that we did just that, and we voted against it, many on the grounds that gambling in any form is wrong, and many on the grounds that most of our politicians are too corrupt to be entrusted with more money (another sad commentary on today’s society).

It would be political suicide if any of our legislators were to introduce a bill with the intent of increasing the tax burden on the poor. But that is exactly what legalizing “electronic bingo” will do for the State of Alabama. These “charity bingo halls” have been open in just about every community in our state at one point or another while this debate has raged. Did we see people flocking from Atlanta or Nashville to come to play bingo anywhere in our state? No! The cars packing the parking lots of these “bingo halls” 24-hours-a-day, 7-days-a-week were local, from in and around the surrounding community. As a matter of note, the communities with the most “charity bingo” available tended to be the communities with the lowest income per capita. “Electronic bingo” is nothing more than a tax on the poor.

Those in support of legalized gambling call our current governor, Bob Riley, corrupt because he is acting to enforce the law, on the ruling of our State Supreme Court, that “bingo” slot machines are illegal everywhere in the state. The “bingo” slot machines have been deemed illegal many times, but many county district attorneys decided that there was too much money/jobs/services at stake to enforce the law, and as a result some counties in our state have been deceived by the gambling lobby into becoming so reliant on the income generated by these “bingo casinos” that they claim their economies will collapse and all public services will come to a halt if the “bingo halls” are shut down. How then did they provide the exact same services before the gambling revenue was coming in, just a very short time ago?

Our former governor, Don Seigleman, was recently convicted of corruption by a jury of his peers. We know he was corrupt. He has been one of the most vocal supporters of legalized gambling in this state, right alongside Milton McGregor, who is the main proprietor of some of the largest “gaming facilities” in the state and who is always at the forefront pushing gambling down our throats.

Just who do you think stands to gain the most from the legalization of gambling? Those who own the facilities. And who do you think profits the most? Well, why exactly do you think the “bingo casinos” are in business? To meet the needs of those who spend their hard-earned money within their doors? NO! If the “bingo parlors” were not making more money than they were awarding, they wouldn’t stay in business very long, and those who run the “bingo halls” wouldn’t be spending untold millions of dollars lobbying our state lawmakers and running commercial after commercial after commercial in support of their flawed “let us have ‘electronic bingo’ in a select few counties” bill on the radio and TV.

Just who do you think will end up in control of any of the ill-gotten tax revenues from these “bingo parlors” should they become legal? We have already seen how easily our elected officials can be corrupted, especially here in Jefferson County, where the taxpayers of this county are in the hole for billions of dollars due to the corruption of county commissioners who received kickbacks from contractors on court-ordered sewer expansions. Why does anyone think our public officials would act any differently if they had access to more money?

There are many who will argue that they see nothing wrong with gambling, especially the “bingo” slot machines that we are fighting against here in Alabama. But the Bible tells us that “The love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.” (I Timothy 6:10, NIV)

There are some in the gambling lobby who keep harping that all this is nothing more than “entertainment.” If this is all only “entertainment,” then why aren’t they just collecting a cover charge at the door and letting the patrons play with Monopoly™ money? The fact is that if those who feed the machines didn’t think that somehow they were going to walk out of there with more money than they came in with, no one would do it. No one can convince me that those who are staunch supporters of gambling in Alabama are doing so out of any other motivation than money. Either they think they are going to “win big” and “all their problems will be solved,” or they think that by taxing the revenues of the gambling facilities that governmental budget shortfalls will be remedied. Either view, however, is flawed, because putting all your hope in money is the same as making it your god.

“Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry.” (Colossians 3:5, NIV)

I have even heard Christians who think that since people are going to Mississippi to gamble anyway, or since they are going to Georgia or Florida to buy lottery tickets, that we should just go ahead and have those options available here. “At least their money would be staying in our state, instead of going somewhere else.” But the fact that there are wrong choices available in neighboring states doesn’t make offering those same wrong choices here right for Alabama. That is just another expression of greed.

Please join me in praying that the scourge of gambling will not be released on the State of Alabama in any form. It is a slippery slope, as evidenced by the progression from bingo to full-fledged casinos on the Poarch Creek Reservation in Atmore and by the corruption of morals encouraged by the casinos in Tunica.

There is joy on this journey, on my way home to my Father’s house,
Cindy <><

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for posting this excellent article!

    Catherine Snow


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