Expanding gambling is bad public policy

September 25, 2003

Dear Editor:

On behalf of the Kentucky Baptist Convention's Committee on Public Affairs, we want to express our great concern over the current discussion in our commonwealth regarding the expansion of gambling. Our committee has the responsibility for keeping the more than 780,000 Kentucky Baptists in more than 2,400 churches in our state informed regarding public policy issues.

Yes, as Baptists we have concerns about gambling from a moral and Biblical perspective. We feel God encourages us to help each other rather than seeking to benefit from others' losses, that gambling encourages us to reduce our dependence upon God, and that it discourages a proper work ethic.

However, the points we want to make today are for everyone - Baptists and non-Baptists alike. Expanding gambling is simply bad public policy. Here's why:


1. Gambling expansion negatively targets families - Corporations, businesses, institutions, churches and non-profits can't gamble. Only men and women can gamble - moms, dads, grandparents and singles - so when they lose (and the gambling industry is all about profiting from customer losses), the family loses. The dollars raised from gambling do not represent "new" money. Gambling simply shifts money out of the bank accounts of families and into the coffers of the gambling industry. Government gets its share simply by heavily taxing the money as it changes hands. The bottom line is that the family picks up the whole tab, and government (which is charged with protecting families) maneuvers to get in on the action.

2. Gambling expansion negatively impacts business - Once families lose, businesses lose because families can't eat out, buy new clothes for school or make other purchases that benefit our economy. Numerous studies document the losses to businesses that have occurred in other areas when casinos and racinos have moved in. The number of jobs in a community only increases briefly until local businesses begin to fail. Only the gambling industry truly profits.

3. Gambling expansion corrupts government - We're not talking about the kind of corruption that occurs from illegal bribes. But think about what will subtly happen over time when legislators grow to depend upon the revenue generated by gambling. The gambling industry is all about the bottom line. Will gambling be allowed to continually expand as profits become harder to come by? Will other vices like prostitution be legalized under the guise that they are necessary to make the casinos more attractive?

4. Gambling expansion hurts the poor (the poor in spirit and the poor in assets) - No one disputes that as gambling expands, some human beings will be destroyed through suicide, spouse abuse, divorce, child abuse and neglect, embezzlement, alcoholism, etc. Are these fellow citizens really expendable to us? Doesn't the expense of dealing with these societal problems eat into the supposed financial benefits to government of expanded gambling? Is this really the only way out of our state budget mess? Our government should be engaged in activities that strengthen society, not weaken it as gambling unquestionably does.

Our committee wishes to commend the many state legislators in both the Senate and the House who recognize the destructive impact that expanded gambling can have on our state and have taken public stands to oppose this legislation. We strongly encourage our gubernatorial candidates and other legislators to take similarly courageous stands.

French Harmon, chairman

Kentucky Baptist Convention Committee on Public Affairs

Rev. Paul Badgett, president

Kentucky Baptist Convention

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