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Prof argues against expanded gambling


LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP)–Expanded gambling in the state of Kentucky would be a moral outrage because it involves the government attempting to cash in on sin and broken families, Hershael York said recently on “Kentucky Tonight,” a statewide television broadcast on KET.

“Enough is enough,” said York, a professor at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., and pastor of Buck Run Baptist Church in Frankfort, Ky. “Let’s stop it where it is. It’s bad enough. Families are being destroyed. The government getting a piece of the destruction families to me is completely unacceptable.”

Appearing with York were former Kentucky Governor Brereton Jones, a Democrat, and Patrick Neely, executive director of the Kentucky Equine Education Project, both of whom support expanded gambling. Joining York on the anti-gambling side was John-Mark Hack, director of Say No to Gambling.

The program explored arguments for and against expanded gambling — such as casino-style gaming — and speculated about how such expansion could affect Kentucky.

York began his argument in the July 30 broadcast by quoting an editorial Jones wrote in the Lexington Herald-Leader in 1999, when the former governor opposed expanded gambling.

In the editorial Jones wrote, “Let’s get straight to the point. Casino gambling in Kentucky is a bad idea. The very thought of our own government promoting the deception of slot machines and roulette wheels is a sad commentary.”

After reading from the editorial, York asked, “Did the deception of slot machines change since 1999? And the answer, of course, is no. There is no two ways about it — you lose. Even the winners lose in casino gambling.”

Jones argued that refusing to draw revenue from the millions of Kentuckians who already are gambling in surrounding states, where casino-style gaming is legal, is foolish.

“If I could push a button right now and do away with every casino in Kentucky and in the world, I would push that button,” Jones said. “Unfortunately, sticking your head in the sand is not, in my opinion, the best way to deal with it.”

More than 550,000 Kentucky residents gambled at an out-of-state casino at least four times in the past year, Jones said, and Kentucky voters should have a say in whether they reap any of the financial benefits from that gambling.

“I think it’s absolutely time that we allow the people to make the decision, as opposed to the politicians,” he said. “Then if the people say no, that they don’t want it, that’s the end of it.”

Hack argued that the money lost from expanded gambling would be greater than any money gained.

“The money going to other states will pale in comparison to the money that will leave Kentucky when casino companies come and take up residence here,” Hack said. “I think the money that will go to Nevada and New Jersey and other states where casino corporations are located will make us reminisce about the amount of money that is currently supposedly going over the bridge to Indiana.”

Neely responded that Kentucky practically already has expanded gambling because of the presence of casinos minutes away in neighboring Indiana. The only question is whether Kentucky will allow gambling to boost its economy, he said.

“We have Indiana casinos that are perched right on our border,” Neely said. “… The only thing that we don’t have in Kentucky are the hundreds of millions of dollars of tax revenue that are generated at those out-of-state facilities.”

York drew attention to the negative effects of gambling, calling it “addictive behavior” and asserting that “it preys on the weakest people in society.” According to the most conservative estimates, approximately 25 percent of those who enter a casino have an annual household income of $30,000 or less, York said.

“That is economic disaster,” he said. “That is money that’s not getting spent sometimes on necessities. What we’re doing is we’re saying that as government all we want is a piece of the money they’re losing. Our concern is simply that we get our piece of the cut, not what it does to those families, not what it does to their children.”

But Jones said the state’s main concern should be using people’s lost money to fund government projects.

“The money that’s being lost is Kentucky money,” Jones said. “And if they’re going to lose it anyway, they need to lose it here as opposed to somewhere else.”

York called Jones’ argument immoral and illogical.

“Governor, I find that morally reprehensible,” York responded. “To me, we might as well get into whorehouse business, we might as well get into drug business because those are vices too that people are going to do anyway.”

In the end, Christians must realize that gambling is popular because it appeals to humans’ sinful greed, York said. He noted that the remedy for gambling is for believers in Jesus Christ to follow the admonition to love their neighbors.

“Let me say something to those people who call themselves Christians — and I know that’s not everyone,” he said. “But frankly, Jesus told us and the command is ‘love your neighbor as yourself.’ You cannot claim that you love your neighbor as yourself and [that] you want to take his money from him. Gambling is based on getting somebody else’s money.”
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David Roach is a writer for Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky.