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Gambling measures pass in 5 states; nation embraces falsehoods, Duke says

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–In Tennessee and North Dakota, voters approved the implementation of a state lottery, and in Arizona voters passed a measure to extend the state lottery for 10 more years. Iowa voted to renew casino gambling for the next eight years, Idaho voted to allow slot machines on Indian reservations and Arizona passed one of three referendums to expand gambling on reservations.

“Those states that voted to expand or continue gambling are simply proving the axiom of the camel’s nose,” said Barrett Duke, vice president for research for the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. “Once it gets its nose in the tent, the rest is sure to follow. That is why it is so important to prevent gambling from ever gaining a foothold. It is very difficult to get out once it gets in.

“A previous generation of Americans were so sure of this that many of them included gambling bans in their state constitutions. Today’s generation of Americans think they know better; but they are tragically wrong,” Duke said.

In Tennessee, 58 percent of voters agreed to permit the state legislature to authorize a state lottery. Tennessee, Utah and Hawaii had been the only states without any form of legalized gambling. Michael Gilstrap, president of the Gambling Free Tennessee Alliance, joked with The Tennessean newspaper that he would move to Hawaii now. He told the newspaper that the outcome was disappointing, but it was “a clear message from the voters.”

In North Dakota, 64 percent of voters agreed to direct the legislative assembly to authorize the state to join a multi-state lottery. Seventy-three percent of Arizona voters supported the extension of the state lottery for another decade.

“The results of yesterday’s votes on state lotteries reveal that the lottery-gambling domino effect started by New Hampshire in 1963 continues to take its toll,” Duke said. “People are still succumbing to the argument that their states are losing money to bordering state lotteries. What they don’t realize yet is that by embracing the serpent rather than holding it at arm’s length they will receive a much more deadly bite when lottery mania has finished its path of destruction.

“Others who actually believe that lotteries will provide much-needed funding for college educations will be very disappointed in about five years when they discover that their taxes will have to be raised to pay for the additional costs brought on by burgeoning college enrollments,” Duke said.

Tom Grey, spokesman for the National Coalition Against Legalized Gambling, said the fact that three states voted to either implement or continue a state lottery should be put in perspective. In the past legislative year, during difficult economic times, he told Baptist Press, 20 states chose not to expand gambling either through legislative action or inaction.

By Grey’s assessment, three states supporting a lottery should be viewed next to legislative decisions in eight states rejecting slot machines at existing racetracks, seven states rejecting proposals to either bring casinos into the state or add to the numbers already there, four states rejecting legislation to implement a lottery and one state ruling out a lottery based on its conflict with the state’s constitution.

“I thought we did extremely well given the economic needs of the states after Sept. 11,” Grey said, noting that pro-gambling voices claim lotteries help states financially while studies show they do not.

The problem with the Nov. 5 results, Grey said, was that church leaders and other lottery opponents committed themselves to educating people about the dangers of a lottery, but it seems, especially in Tennessee, that informed voters chose to overlook the negative aspects and vote in their personal best interest — meaning they would not personally play the lottery but saw it as a tax benefit that would pay for their children to attend college.

Grey noted the importance of gubernatorial races because gambling opponents must not only stop gambling supporters but also the governors who bring them in. He said the Nov. 5 election resulted in several pro-lottery governors being placed in office, and that will be a problem in the coming years when they have had time to support gambling in their states.

Gov. Jim Hodges of South Carolina was elected to office four years ago on a platform that included a state lottery as a means to improve education. He advocated that the estimated $150 million in additional funds generated annually by a lottery would be used to help students by providing college scholarships and technical school tuition, help schools purchase computers for classrooms, and help teachers pay for graduate-level training. After the lottery failed to help the state as promised, Hodges was defeated Nov. 5 by Republican Mark Sanford.

In Iowa, voters registered their support for casino gambling at the state’s riverboats and racetracks for the next eight years. According to the Des Moines Register Nov. 6, the Iowa Gaming commission, which represents 13 state-regulated casinos, had heavily emphasized the economic benefits of casino gambling, which has been legal in Iowa since 1991.

Robert Miller, president of the Truth About Gambling Foundation in Iowa, told the Register that gambling opponents simply couldn’t match the money spent by the casino industry to promote the ballot campaigns. He remained optimistic that gambling would eventually be exposed for what it is.

“Nobody ever thought Enron and Martha Stewart or WorldCom would come crashing down, but the same thing could happen to the gambling industry very quick with a scandal,” Miller said.

In Idaho, 58 percent of voters supported allowing Indian tribes to continue to operate the types of video lottery-style gambling machines currently used at Indian gambling facilities on Idaho reservations.

According to Focus on the Family, video gambling devices are the most addictive form of gambling and are especially problematic for the tribes involved because studies indicate that the rate of gambling problems among Native Americans is significantly higher than among the general population.

In Arizona, voters defeated an initiative to expand gambling on Indian reservations for an indefinite number of years to include more slot machines, more table games like blackjack and more facilities. Only limited revenue sharing and regulatory oversight would have been granted to the state, and the tribes would not have been required to disclose information to the state regarding gambling revenues and what those revenues are used for on the reservations.

Arizona voters also defeated a measure that would have legalized off-reservation gambling to permit slot machines at racetracks. Also under the measure, gambling at reservations would be expanded significantly and both the racetracks and tribal casinos would be required to share a limited amount of gambling revenue with the state.

In a third initiative regarding Native American gambling in Arizona, voters appear to have narrowly passed the expansion of on-reservation gambling for at least 23 years with a limited amount of revenue to be shared with the state. Tribes will not be required to disclose information to the state about their gambling revenues and their use.

“What we need to do now,” Duke said, “is continue to gather the statistics and share the truth about the problems of lotteries and all forms of gambling so that we can hasten the day when Americans wake up to what they have allowed to happen in our nation and push gambling back into the darkness that spawned it.”

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  • Erin Curry