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ERLC joins with evangelical ministry in Bible-based gambling recovery program

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Convinced that gambling addiction is largely a spiritual issue, the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission has partnered with Church Initiative, an evangelical equipping ministry based in Wake Forest, N.C., to distribute a biblically based, Christ-centered strategy to empower churches to reach problem gamblers in their communities.

“Chance to Change: Christ-Centered Gambling Recovery” is a 13-week video series featuring instruction from 40 Christian counselors, pastors and financial experts who specialize in giving Christ-centered help to problem gamblers. Chance to Change also features testimonies of 30 former problem gamblers who have found freedom and deliverance through Jesus Christ.

“Chance to Change can equip churches to help problem gamblers without having to hire a gambling recovery expert or rely on a secular organization,” said Richard Land, ERLC president and a contributor to the video resource.

“Chance to Change is more than just a recovery program; it is a beyond recovery program in that it shows gamblers not only how to quit gambling, but also how to live the victorious life God intended for them,” Land said, noting, “It’s in the best interest of gamblers to experience true healing through a Christ-centered program like Chance to Change.”

According to the National Gambling Impact Study Commission’s (NGISC) 1999 report, a Harvard University study estimated that 15.4 million Americans were suffering from problem and pathological gambling. The federally commissioned study further noted that the gambling industry in the United States had grown tenfold since 1975.

Legal wagers are now recognized in 48 states, in such forms as casino or Internet gambling, lotteries, pari-mutuel betting or bingo. Gambling industry revenue now exceeds annual total receipts generated by the entertainment industry.

The National Council on Problem Gambling reports that:

— the suicide rate is 20 times higher for pathological gamblers.

— 47 percent of problem gamblers abuse alcohol.

— 46 percent of problem gamblers are depressed.

— up to 65 percent of pathological gamblers commit crimes to finance their gambling.

— 11 percent of gamblers’ wives commit suicide.

— 25 percent of children of pathological gamblers have significant behavioral or adjustment problems.

The NGISC likewise reported that compulsive gambling often results in domestic and child abuse, divorce and family neglect. A domestic violence counselor from Harrison, Miss., testified that a local shelter reported a 300 percent increase in the number of requests for abuse intervention after the arrival of the casinos.

In fact, the 1999 report from the bipartisan commission appointed by Congress concluded that the effects of gambling were so devastating that “a national moratorium on gambling expansion” was needed.

And it appears the damaging effects of the gambling epidemic are an equal opportunity destroyer. Findings from a study by the Barna Research Group dismiss the common misperception that gambling is not a major issue for Christians and churches.

According to Barna, there are “no differences between the unchurched and the churched” when it comes to gambling activity. While Christians often have been warned about the dangers of gambling, “millions do so on a regular basis.” Astonishingly, 17 percent of born-again Christians have purchased a lottery ticket in the previous week, Barna reported.

The support group format of Chance to Change is founded on the biblical model described in Ephesians 4:21-24 of abandoning a sinful lifestyle for a godly lifestyle. Lay-led gambling addiction support groups are encouraged to meet weekly to work through the video and workbook series.

To learn more about Chance to Change, go online at www.faithandfamily.com/gambling or contact the ERLC at 1-800-475-9127.

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