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Theology and casino gambling

Theology and casino gambling

Rt. Rev. Douglas Fisher, the Rev. Chris Carlisle and Steven Abdow have written an essay on why casino gambling is bad news. Episcopal News Service has the story:

In Diocesan Convention last October, the clergy and delegates representing our 65 churches voted unanimously to oppose casino gambling in Western Massachusetts. In the months following, many of you have worked faithfully to educate voters as to what casinos really do in communities. That effort included educating me. In the last few weeks I have been interviewed numerous times by television, radio and newspaper reporters.

The very nature of interviews demands “sound bites.” Studies show you get seven seconds to grab the attention of viewers or listeners before they switch channels. My sound bite has been “Jesus came to bring good news to the poor. Casinos are bad news for the poor. I follow Jesus.”

But there is far more to the casino debate than a sound bite. To express the depth of our position, Steve Abdow and I have worked with the Rev. Chris Carlisle to produce the essay “Theology and Casino Gambling.”

Here you will find a reflection on gambling from the perspective of Holy Scripture. And because our theology is not abstract but “incarnate” (manifested in “the flesh,” in reality), you will see many references as to what casinos have actually done to neighborhoods.

Read the essay here


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TJ Hudson

A little additional research. The Catechism of the Catholic Church (of no particular authority for us, but a good source on moral theology in general) offers this:

“#2413 Games of chance (card games, etc.) or wagers are not in themselves contrary to justice. They become morally unacceptable when they deprive someone of what is necessary to provide for his needs and those of others. The passion for gambling risks becoming an enslavement. Unfair wagers and cheating at games constitute grave matter, unless the damage inflicted is so slight that the one who suffers it cannot reasonably consider it significant.” (This from a church that is famous for bingo!)

Gambling clearly has the potential to harm certain people in a variety of ways, but it is not inherently evil. To offer blanket opposition seems to weaken the church’s ability to help those harmed, and to decrease our influence on public policy.

Gary Young

Besides, using prayer to improve your odds is cheating.

Gary Young

TJ Hudson

Gambling is morally neutral. Like alcohol, tobacco, prescription medications, and even eating, it can harm some, be good for some, and have no effect on some.

Statistically, 1 to 3 percent of gamblers develop a problem. Compared to the numbers addicted to alcohol, tobacco, and misusing prescription medicines, not to mention the epidemic of obesity, it seems that gambling, while it clearly does harm some, is the least offensive of these. In addition, every state where there are casinos offers (and enforces) the ability to ban oneself from entry to casinos. How many bars will do that for alcoholics?

As for harming the community, casino jobs are unionized, and salaries and benefits are at least as good as those of any union jobs nearby.

I’m not sure where “citizens against casino gaming” get their stats, but the fact that they are the most-quoted source in this essay, and that no other sources offer the same “facts” leads me to question their validity.

Christopher Johnson

Touch ’em all, Bishop. Outstanding job.

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