Gambling expansion troubling to persons who advocate "do no harm"
Dear Friends in Jesus Christ:
I was pleased last week that the General Assembly took up the important business of a capital construction bill that would tend to much needed infrastructure work and provide jobs. But I was profoundly disappointed that the funding package for the program includes a dangerous expansion of gambling here in Illinois. I am persuaded that such an expansion will do great injury and harm. Remember we are the people who live out our faith in part by observing “Three Simple Rules.” The first of these rules is “do no harm.” Below please find the United Methodist statement on gambling from the 2008 Book of Resolutions. The United Methodist perspective on gambling could not be more relevant to the revenue issues that we are facing here in Illinois. Thank you in advance for taking time to read the material below and for the witness that you will make as together we embody “doing no harm, doing good and staying in love with God.” See you in Peoria.
Yours in Christ,
†Gregory V. Palmer
The Social Principles state that, “gambling is a menace to society, deadly to the best interests of moral, social, economic, and spiritual life, and destructive of good government. 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 should promote standards and personal lifestyles that would make unnecessary and undesirable the resort to commercial gambling—including public lotteries—as a recreation, as an escape, or as a means of producing public revenue or funds for support of charities or government.” ( 163G).
When asked which commandment is first of all, Jesus answered, “Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; 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” (Mark 12:29-30 NRSV). Gambling feeds on human greed and invites persons to place their trust in possessions rather than in God. It represents a form of idolatry that contradicts the first commandment. Jesus said: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:31b NRSV). In relating with compassion and love to our sisters and brothers, we are called to resist those practices and systems that exploit them and leave them impoverished and demeaned. The apostle Paul wrote in 1 Timothy 6:9-10a: “People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil.”
Gambling, as a means of acquiring material gain by chance and at the neighbor’s expense, is a menace to personal character and social morality. Gambling fosters greed and stimulates the fatalistic faith in chance. Organized and commercial gambling is a threat to business, breeds crime and poverty, and is destructive to the interests of good government. It encourages the belief that work is unimportant, that money can solve all our problems, and that greed is the norm for achievement. It serves as a “regressive tax” on those with lower income. In summary, gambling is bad economics; gambling is bad public policy; and gambling does not improve the quality of life.
We oppose the growing legalization and promotion of gambling.
Dependence on gambling revenue has led many governments to exploit the weakness of their own citizens, neglect the development of more equitable forms of taxation, and thereby further erode citizen confidence in government.
We oppose the legalization of pari-mutuel betting, for it has been the opening wedge in the legalization of other forms of gambling that has fostered the growth of illegal bookmaking. We deplore the establishment of lotteries and their use as a means of raising public revenues. The constant promotion and the wide advertising of lotteries have encouraged large numbers of persons to gamble for the first time.
We express our concern for the increasing development of the casino enterprises, which have taken captive entire communities and corrupted many levels of government with its fiscal and political power.
Public apathy and a lack of awareness that petty gambling feeds organized crime have opened the door to the spread of numerous forms of legal and illegal gambling.
We especially express our deep concern at the rapid growth of two forms of gambling:
Internet Gambling: Because computer usage is available in the privacy of one’s home and even in churches, the potential for access to gambling websites and addiction to Internet gambling is great. Internet gambling is an international problem and it is virtually unregulated which has led to corruption, money laundering, and funding of terrorist organizations. Individuals and local churches should seek to educate themselves on the easy access to Internet gambling Web sites. The social cost of addiction to Internet gambling is great and leads to bankruptcy, suicide, and family discord. Young adults and senior citizens are among the most vulnerable populations at risk to gambling addiction. Parents and caregivers should take steps to ensure that children and the elderly with access to computers not be exposed to Internet gambling Web sites. Local churches and annual conferences should provide educational resources for parents and caregivers on the dangers of Internet gambling and enact strict oversight of church-owned computers.
US Tribal Gambling: We grieve over the expansion of gambling onto tribal reservations and lands. Gambling expansion on tribal lands has fostered racism and hate crimes, has caused discord between and among tribal members, and has led to divisions in churches and families. While we support tribal self-determination and self-governance, resorting to gambling as a form of economic development is regrettable. We acknowledge and recognize the dichotomy created when the Church’s positions oppose gambling and at the same time support tribal self-determination. We urge annual conferences and local churches, which reside near tribal casinos or are facing expansion of tribal gambling ventures, to build partnerships with churches on reservations and Indian lands to foster mutual trust and understanding of tribal history and of the United Methodist position on gambling without resorting to diminishing tribal sovereignty.
The church has a key role in fostering responsible government and in developing health and moral maturity that free persons from dependence on damaging social customs. We urge national, tribal, state, and local governments to read, analyze, and implement the recommendations of the National Gambling Impact Study report released by the United States in 1999. We encourage tribal governments to wean themselves from gambling as a form of economic development; and we encourage and fully support tribal efforts to diversify economically away from gambling.
We support the strong enforcement of antigambling laws and the repeal of all laws that give gambling an acceptable and even advantageous place in our society.
It is expected that United Methodist churches abstain from the use of raffles, lotteries, bingo, door prizes, other drawing schemes, and games of chance for the purpose of gambling or fundraising. United Methodists should refrain from all forms of gambling practices and work to influence community organizations and be supportive of American Indian tribes in developing forms of funding that do not depend upon gambling. Furthermore, it is incumbent upon local churches to reach out with love to individuals who are addicted, compulsive, or problem gamblers and support efforts at recovery and rehabilitation. We oppose coalitions, groups, organizations, and campaigns that claim opposition to gambling, yet at the same time undermine or oppose tribal sovereignty, which fosters a climate of hate and racism. An alarming trend is the attempt to use local churches in order to increase support for this destructive agenda.
We believe that these groups operate contrary to Christian teachings. Therefore we strongly discourage United Methodist members and local churches from participating in such efforts.