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GAMBLING: A MORAL ISSUE?

Please take the time to read this. It may not have all the statistical data you might like but it does contain some thoughts pertinent to the quality of life for the families and children of Sullivan County.

<>My name is Pastor Bob Paquet and I reside in Callicoon Center, NY. As a pastor and a citizen of Sullivan County I want to urge Governor Pataki, the members of the BIA, 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, 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. It has been falsely assumed by those advocating casinos that we will have casinos (against the will of the people) and the issue now being addressed seems to be, “Since history tells us (a proven fact) that there are many adverse consequences of legalized gambling, how do we placate the opposition, minimize the damage that will occur, and still make a lot of money? So what if a few lives are destroyed.”

Please consider the real impact of five casinos on the residents of Sullivan County.

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 fifty or a hundred be destroyed?  How much is a single life worth?  If it was your son or daughter, or mother or father, what would it be worth? Is money more important than people’s lives?  There is an abundance of data documenting and substantiating the harmful effects of gambling on individuals, families and communities. I ask you how much is the life of an individual worth? Is legalized gambling justified for the sake of jobs and money when the lives of thousands of individuals could be destroyed?

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. I also want to remind you that when you approve of any legislation or create any laws you are in fact creating a value – by giving government approval or disapproval to a particular course of action you create a value. I realize that there are some of you who will say, “What does this have to do with anything? We can do whatever seems right in our own eyes. There is no God or life after death.”  To you I would say, “What if the Bible is true?”  Death is universal among humans and if the Bible is true there are going to be some who will have a very rude awakening.

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. Yet, somehow the great State of New York, its Governor and many who represent us think that they can defy all odds and bring prosperity to our state by legalizing casino gambling.  I am afraid that if you continue on the path you are going we will all, WEEP WHAT YOU ARE SOWING.”

Please consider the following:

I. GAMBLING IS NOT LOVING OTHERS AS YOURSELF

Mark 12:28-31

    “And one of the scribes came and heard them arguing, and recognizing that He had answered them well, asked Him, "What commandment is the foremost of all?" [29] Jesus answered, "The foremost is, 'Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is one Lord; [30] and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.' [31] "The second is this, 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no other commandment greater than these."

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 plays a part in 1/3 of divorces

·        Domestic abuse cases increased over 300% in a 4-year period

·        Calls to one Gulf Coast Women’s Center crisis line in Florida doubled within 3 years after the introduction of Casinos.

The National Gambling Impact Study Commission reported, “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, pawn shops became the fastest growing business in the state, as people pawned their possessions to pay their gambling debts.
In
Kansas City, the number of pawn shops increased from 4 to 38 after casinos came to the area (Judy Thomas, “Pawnshops, Casinos thrive in KC Market,” The Kansas City Star, August 21, 1995, A1).
These are only a few of the devastating statistics.

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

II. GAMBLING PREYS ON THE POOR

Proverbs 14:21

        He who despises his neighbor sins, But happy is he who is gracious to the poor.   

Proverbs 14:31

        He who oppresses the poor reproaches his Maker, But he who is gracious to the needy honors Him.

The Bible makes it very clear that we are not to oppress the poor. Gambling preys on the desperation of the poor:

According to the National Gambling Impact Study Commission:

·        Those with incomes less than $10,000 spend more on lottery tickets than any other income group.

·        On the national average, lottery gamblers with household incomes under $10,000 bet nearly 3 times as much on the lottery as those with incomes of more than $50,000.

·        High school dropouts spend 4 times as much as college graduates.

·        When the lottery was introduced in Kentucky, the stores in one community reported a 17% drop I grocery sales.

·        Gambling and lotteries in particular, are a tax on those who can least afford it.

III. GAMBLING LEADS CHILDREN ASTRAY

Luke 17:1-2

   “ And He said to His disciples, "It is inevitable that stumbling blocks should come, but woe to him through whom they come! [2] "It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea, than that he should cause one of these little ones to stumble.”

The Bible, God’s Word, 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 says, “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% of all teens surveyed reported gambling at some time in their life. 6.6% of them are already problem or compulsive gamblers.

·        Nationally, 1 in 10 teenagers have a gambling problem and 1 in 8 college students do.

IV. GAMBLING IS BASED ON GREED AND COVETOUSNESS

Exodus 20:17

    "You shall not covet your neighbor's house; you shall not covet your neighbor's wife or his male servant or his female servant or his ox or his donkey or anything that belongs to your neighbor."

1 Tim. 6:9-10

    But those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a snare and many foolish and harmful desires which plunge men into ruin and destruction. [10] For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith, and pierced themselves with many a pang.”

Why do people gamble? In a recent national poll, 2/3s of respondents stated that the reason they gamble is 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.

As a Christian, a pastor and a citizen of Sullivan County I oppose Casino gambling and will use whatever influence I have to encourage others to do the same. I will not call evil good nor will I call good evil.

Isaiah 5:20  Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil;  Who substitute darkness for light and light for darkness;  Who substitute bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!”

According to the Bible the God-ordained purpose of government is to protect the welfare of its citizens and to suppress evil. State-sanctioned gambling does the opposite.

Romans 13:1-5  “ Let every person be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. [2] Therefore he who resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves. [3] For rulers are not a cause of fear for good behavior, but for evil. Do you want to have no fear of authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same; [4] for it is a minister of God to you for good. But if you do what is evil, be afraid; for it does not bear the sword for nothing; for it is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath upon the one who practices evil. [5] Wherefore it is necessary to be in subjection, not only because of wrath, but also for conscience' sake.”

In conclusion, I urge you to consider the TOTAL IMPACT of casino gambling.  Does the “money” justify the broken lives?

Pastor Robert J. Paquet, Ph.D.        

PO Box 285                                       

Callicoon Center, NY 12724

DOCUMENTATION TO CONSIDER

Ref: http://www.nyproblemgambling.org/

(The information below was taken from this website.).

The New York Council on Problem Gambling is a not-for-profit corporation, under contract with the State Office of Mental Health and Department of Health, dedicated to increasing public awareness about problem and compulsive gambling and advocating for support services and treatment for persons adversely affected by gambling.

Problem Gambling Information & Prevalence Studies

In the past decade alone, gambling opportunities have increased substantially in and around New York State. Further, the gambling industry is pursuing strategies to increase participation among the general population, and in particular is making active efforts to appeal to women, young adults and families through a variety of means. Gambling is also now available in New York State via the Internet and is accessible to underage persons.

Gambling has become such a mainstream activity across New York State that for many families, the caregivers of children (e.g. parents, grandparents and other family members) are the primary persons encouraging and/or enticing participation by underage persons (e.g. lottery or card playing, horse racing and sports betting, etc.). Moreover, as gambling is embedded in several cultures, it is introduced to many children very early in life. At the same time, gambling addiction among children remains largely unacknowledged by government and society as a whole. In fact, although gambling often begins as a recreational activity, for some teenagers and young adults, gambling can become a problem, like addictions to drugs, alcohol or tobacco.

Unlike alcohol or drugs, compulsive gambling has been called the "hidden disorder" because it is not detectable with a blood, breath or urine test and gamblers do not look different from their peers. This further complicates identifying a problem gambler until s/he has progressed into the late stages of the disorder. A teenager or young adult addicted to gambling may experience severe ups and downs, fail in school, steal money from parents, family members or others; and even commit crimes for money in order to gamble. A person addicted to gambling may also consider suicide as a way out.

The Council recently released a prevalence study conducted among the adolescent population to document the scope of problem gambling in New York. This study reviewed many aspects, including but not limited to, gambling participation among youth; the prevalence of problem gambling; the primary gambling activities presenting the greatest difficulties; the relationship between gambling and alcohol/drug use and other mental health disorders; the age respondents started gambling; the location of the primary gambling venue; the categories of persons problem gamblers are engaging in the activity with; and the amount and type of debt owed.

A comparison between the adolescence prevalence study and the Council's 1996 adult prevalence study was also made. The 1996 prevalence study by the Council revealed that New York State has the unfortunate distinction of having the highest prevalence for lifetime problem gambling (7.3%) and the second largest percentage of current prevalence (3.6%) in the nation, in comparison to states having similar studies conducted. Based upon this information, there are more than three-quarter million residents who have had problems due to gambling at some point during the course of their lives and at least an additional one-quarter million New Yorkers who are currently experiencing serious to severe difficulties (50% of whom are women).

In New York, 2.4% (±1.09%) of the total sample of adolescent respondents were classified as problem gamblers, the most serious classification of gambling-related difficulties among youth. Another 14.0% (±2.05%) of the total sample of adolescent respondents were classified as gamblers at risk for developing gambling problems.

Based on the prevalence rates, it is estimated that there are between 15,400 and 41,000 adolescents in New York who have experienced severe problems with their gambling and between 135,000 and 193,000 whose gambling involvement has caused them difficulties in the past or, more likely, places them at risk for developing gambling-related difficulties in the future.

Please also note that these statistics do not include the millions of New Yorkers adversely affected by the problem gambler's activities.

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