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Miami Baptists oppose slots referendum

MIAMI (BP)–A referendum to permit slot machines at Miami-Dade County’s pari-mutuel facilities is headed toward a Jan. 29 vote with the opposition of the Miami Baptists, former Gov. Jeb Bush and former U.S. Sen. Bob Graham.

A resolution adopted by the Miami Baptist Association’s administrative committee has been mailed to the association’s 300-plus churches, whose 50,000-plus members comprise the largest evangelical group in Miami-Dade County.

“Our pastors and churches are Bible-believing and feel [slot machines are] not appropriate for our communities,” Gary Johnson, the association’s director of missions, told the Florida Baptist Witness. “We are trying to get people to think and to vote a biblical conscience” when considering the slots referendum, Johnson added.

The referendum, ballot issue No. 47, seeks the addition of Las Vegas-style slot machines at three pari-mutuel facilities in the county, following suit of Broward County which approved a similar measure in March 2005. Miami-Dade voters narrowly rejected slots at that time.

The Baptist resolution, titled “Vote NO to the expansion of Gambling in Miami-Dade County” and adopted unanimously Jan. 15, asserts that gambling is not good for the community, creates harmful addictions, harms families and businesses and brings other morally harmful activities.

The resolution notes that although a few people “strike it rich,” “there are many people who spend their entire paychecks, grocery money, rent money, and they lose their ability to function in our society.”

Gambling is contrary to a “biblical lifestyle,” the resolution states, because it encourages people to not work, be lazy and “side-step God’s will for their life.”

The addictive nature of gambling harms families and “does not promote righteousness or right living. It is not good as a role model to our children,” according to the statement.

“Historically, where gambling is promoted, there are other degrading and immoral lifestyles that also follow,” the resolution notes, citing prostitution, drugs and other criminal activities.

Meanwhile, former Gov. Jeb Bush, in a letter, stated, “Expanded gambling will only serve to erode our traditional industries, the industries we aspire to have and our very social fabric,” according to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.

Graham said in his letter he was “saddened at the continued attempts to define our beautiful community’s future as tied to a slot machine,” the Sun-Sentinel reported.

Pro-slots forces reportedly have raised $5.2 million to promote the referendum and are expected to spend $2 million in the final weeks before the Jan. 29 vote.
James A. Smith Sr. is executive editor of the Florida Baptist Witness, on the Web at www.floridabaptistwitness.com.

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