My view

Gambling is a moral issue

My name is Bob Paquet and I reside in Callicoon Center, NY. As a retired pastor and a citizen of Sullivan County, I want to urge Governor Spitzer, the members of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the Sullivan County Legislature, Senator Bonacic and members of the Housing, Construction, and Community Development Committee to consider the real issue pertaining to casinos and legalized gambling. It is a moral issue.

As the “government” (of the people? by the people? and for the people?) tries to determine how much money we should ask from the casino interests to deal with the projected, expected and certain increase in crime, and counseling of problem gamblers, bankruptcy, abused children and broken families, little, if any, thought seems to be given to the people who will be affected.

As those who represent us, you have a responsibility to consider the welfare of all the people. How many destroyed and ruined lives are you willing to allow? If your decisions only destroy one person, is that allowed, or must 50 or 100 be destroyed?

How can any of you believe that history will not repeat itself in Sullivan County? History, research and competent scientific studies have shown multiple times that legalized gambling causes increased suffering for thousands.

Moreover, in a world where the definition of moral values is in question, I want to remind you that from the founding of our nation, moral values have been derived from the Judeo-Christian principles revealed in the Bible by the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Gambling is clearly completely at odds with these principles.

Jesus commanded us to “Love our neighbors as ourselves.” When you gamble or encourage gambling, you do not love your neighbor as yourself. You are trying to take something from your neighbor, for yourself, and he is getting nothing in return. For you to win at gambling, others must lose.

In addition to the monetary loss, gambling hurts homes and families in many other ways. In areas where casino gambling has been legalized, it has been reported that gambling played a part in one third of divorces; domestic abuse cases increased over 300 percent in a four-year period; and the National Gambling Impact Study Commission reported that “children of compulsive gamblers are often prone to suffer abuse, as well as neglect, as a result of a parental problem or pathological gambling.” After they legalized casino gambling in the state of Mississippi, pawnshops became the fastest-growing business in the state, as people pawned their possessions to pay their gambling debts.

Can we really say, “I love my neighbor,” when we are willing to contribute to the legal destruction of his life, the lives of his children and family members and the corruption of the community in which he lives?

The Bible makes it very clear that we are not to oppress the poor. But gambling preys on the desperation of the poor. According to the National Gambling Impact Study Commission, those with incomes of less than $10,000 spend more on lottery tickets than any other income group. When the lottery was introduced in Kentucky, the stores in one community reported a 17-percent drop in grocery sales. Gambling, and lotteries in particular, are a tax on those who can least afford it.

The Bible says that we have a responsibility to teach children correctly, and that those who lead children astray will pay a terrible price. Gambling hurts children.

George Meldrum of the Delaware Council on Gambling Problems said, “This is the first generation of kids growing up when gambling is legal and available virtually nationwide.” The result? According to a Florida high school gambling survey in 1995, 90 percent of all teens surveyed reported gambling at some time in their lives, and 6.6 percent of them are already problem or compulsive gamblers.

Why do people gamble? Mostly to win money. The apostle Paul specifically warns us about the love of money, and God specifically forbids coveting what others own. Gambling breaks both of those commands. In addition, gambling also displays a lack of trust in God’s provision and dissatisfaction in what He has already provided.

In conclusion, I urge you to consider the total impact of casino gambling. Does the money justify the broken lives?

Robert J. Paquet, Ph.D.

Callicoon Center, NY