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Family member’s video poker woes stir retired missionary to action

EAGLE SPRINGS, N.C. (BP)–Zeb Moss is on a crusade to stop the video poker industry in North Carolina and the retired missionary said he has a good reason — because the “destructive force of gambling” hit close to home.

A member of Moss’ extended family found himself addicted to the convenience store gaming machines and it nearly cost the man his family and his livelihood.

Moss’ personal efforts against video poker began with an open letter in the North Carolina Baptist paper, the Biblical Recorder, urging pastors to educate their congregations about the dangers of the video poker industry.

According to Moss’ statistics, more than 22,000 video poker machines are in use throughout North Carolina and it has become a $700 million a year industry.

Moss, now pastor of Eagle Springs (N.C.) Baptist Church after 38 years with the Southern Baptist International Mission Board mostly in Africa, noted in his open letter that even though gambling is illegal in North Carolina, video poker is allowed because it is considered a gaming machine. “We have a duty as Baptists to take a stand against the inroads of this evil,” Moss wrote.

Concerning his relative’s experience with video poker, Moss recounted to Baptist Press, “He took out a mortgage on his mother’s home in order to have a down payment on their house and he squandered it all on video poker. He squandered $35,000.”

Moss said he didn’t realize what an addiction was until the family member missed his own birthday celebration. “He was on the way to his own party and we were all there waiting,” Moss remembered. “He stopped by a convenience store to play a few games and eight hours later he finally came to himself and realized that he had forgotten the party. He went into a bar and even though he doesn’t drink, got a beer and splashed it on himself. When he finally got to the party, he told us he was robbed at a bar.”

Ironically, Moss said the family member was not down on his luck. “If you met him, you’d never know he had a problem with gambling. He’s a salesman and he makes good money. His wife is a director of nursing services for a major hospital. They were even involved in church,” he said.

But addiction to gambling isn’t limited to a specific economic group, and that’s why everyone is at risk with the legalization of gaming devices, Moss said.

“I was preaching at a revival in South Carolina and I was shocked to see what the gambling industry has done to people,” Moss said. “I became aware of the fight South Carolina Baptists had waged against the video poker industry and that’s when I learned that North Carolina had video poker machines inside our state borders.”

The fight against video poker has even made its way into the state’s political scene. One Republican candidate for governor, Chuck Neely, has made the fight a part of a three-man race in the upcoming Republican primary.

Moss said it’s time for Christians stand up to what he called a great danger to society. “We must do something,” he said.

As for his own family, Moss said there is hope on the horizon. The family member who suffered through a gambling addiction is now in a gambler’s anonymous program.

“You know, after serving as a missionary for many years, I thought I was ready to retire. But it’s hard to do where there are things still left to be done,” Moss said.

    About the Author

  • Todd Starnes