Gambling is a vice industry built on deception and fed by the intentional exploitation of human weakness for the sole purpose of monetary gain.
Today's video gambling machines (modern slots) are designed to be the most addictive form of gambling ever developed. Addiction counselors and psychologists are calling video gambling the "crack cocaine" of the gambling industry. People are becoming addicted to these machines within a year. 1
Increased accessibility and availability of gambling throughout our nation is also to blame for the increase in problem and pathological addictions. 2Nearly a decade ago, a federal research committee estimated that there were about 15 million problem and pathological gamblers in the U.S. alone – 7.9 million were underage children 3
Gambling is defined by a combination of three components:
Gambling has been legalized in 48 states, with the two exceptions being Hawaii and Utah. Approximately 33 percent of the American population does not gamble. Another 46 percent gambles at casinos, while the remaining 21 percent choose other forms of gambling.
About 50-60 percent of the population can be classified as "light bettors." Another 10 percent represent "heavy bettors," 4who account for nearly 61 percent of all table and slot casino revenues. 5Heavy gamblers tend to exhibit more problem and pathological gambling addictions.
In 2006, with all forms of gambling combined, nearly $91 billion was taken in the form of gamblers' losses or in gross annual revenues for gambling operations; this number does not include $6 billion sent out of the U.S. in illegal Internet gambling. 6
The five largest gambling sectors include:
According to the American Gaming Association's 2008 State of the States report, about 54.5 million people visited U.S. casinos in 2007 (25 percent of the adult population, 21 years of age and older). 8
Poker participation and its short growth phase, based largely on the formation of the World Poker Tour and televised poker tournaments, peaked in 2004 and 2005. But it appeared to experience a 33 percent decline in popularity in 2007 (from the peak years) with only 13 percent of adults gambling on poker during the year.
Race track casino operations – hybrids of casinos, lotteries and pari-mutuel facilities – are becoming increasingly popular with states even though the National Gambling Impact Study Commission advised against allowing casino-style gambling at race tracks:
Recommendation 3.12 - "The Commission recommends that states should refuse to allow the introduction of casino-style gambling into pari-mutuel facilities for the primary purpose of saving a pari-mutuel facility that the market has determined no longer serves the community or for the purpose of competing with other forms of gambling." 13
Racino States with video lottery terminals include Delaware, NewYork, Rhode Island and West Virginia 14Racino States with casino slots include Florida, Iowa, Louisiana, Maine, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Pennsylvania.
A Barna survey of public opinion found that 61 percent of Americans believe that gambling is "morally acceptable," 1and a more recent Barna survey found that about 20 percent – or one in five – adults have gambled in the past week. 2However, many people are beginning to notice failed promises and the darker side of subsequent gambling addictions.
Despite the national trend toward embracing gambling as "gaming" and classifying it as harmless entertainment, this activity – and related technology – has never been more deceptive and addictive than it is today. Parents, senior citizens and young people need to be aware that nobody is exempt from gambling addiction, regardless of whether you have an "addictive" personality or not. And the underlying theme of "something for nothing" is no more real today than it was several hundred years ago.
As the early 1900's humorist Frank McKinney Hubbard stated, "The safest way to double your money is to fold it over once and put it in your pocket." This is even truer today with mechanized video predators that simulate "near wins" while taking more and more money from the pockets of unknowing victims or gamblers.
Voting citizens and legislators need to realize that gambling brings with it a host of social ills that spawn primarily from addiction. We call these adverse effects the "ABCs of Gambling." Gambling-related incidents of addiction, bankruptcy, crime, corruption, domestic abuse, destruction of marriages and families, and suicide attempts are higher than incidents related to any other addiction. Because gambling is so addictive, exploitive and damaging to so many facets of society, public policy that attempts to expand this industry is fundamentally and ethically flawed.
Dr. James Dobson emphasizes, "[Y]ou don't establish national policy on the basis of an individual [special interest group or their desires]. You look at what the impact is, what the greater good is for the culture, and the best thing for a culture is to have a rock solid foundation on which everything else is dependent. …Everything rests on the institution of the family ..." 3To the economist John Kenneth Galbraith, "People are the common denominator of progress." Economic progress can only be measured by its impact on individuals. 4
"It's very insidious," he said. "You don't have hangovers. Who was I hurting? I was hurting a lot of people, but I rationalized I wasn't." – Addicted Florida gambler 5
''I've had people gamble through fires and floods and armed robberies … It's not that they don't care. It's that they are not aware of their surroundings. Gambling is a very consuming act. Nothing else exists." – Rocky Mountain News 6
Availability and accessibility of gambling, combined with highly addictive video slot machines, act as the perfect storm for addiction. Add to land-based casinos and gambling boats more than 255 million wireless cell phone subscribers – or approximately 84 percent of the U.S. population 7– and "remote" or wireless gambling is becoming the latest threat. Particularly concerning is the fact that more than one-third, or 36 percent, of 11- to 14-year-olds have their own cell phones. 8Analysts predict that mobile, wireless online gambling will take $3 billion out of the U.S. alone by 2009.
The 50-2x Rule: Within 50 miles of a casino, the prevalence of problem and pathological gamblers roughly doubles. 9
In Oregon, the number of Gamblers Anonymous chapters increased from three to more than 30 within five years of the introduction of video poker machines. Gambling addiction experts contend video poker is among the most addictive forms of gambling. 10
Two gambling behavior surveys conducted in Minnesota showed a substantial increase in the number of compulsive gamblers coincidental with the expansion of gambling in that state. 11
The list goes on, and most any location with new or expanded gambling can anticipate increased rates of gambling addiction.
SMR Research Corporation called gambling "the single fastest-growing driver of bankruptcy." 12
Professors from Georgetown University and Purdue University performed research on the link between gambling and bankruptcy. They concluded, "We found statistically significant increases at the county level in the number of personal bankruptcy filings due to the introduction of casino gambling." 13
Gambling-related bankruptcies in metro Detroit increased by as much as 40-fold within a year and a half of the opening of Casino Windsor, just across the Detroit River, according to local bankruptcy attorneys. 14
The U.S. Department of Justice and The National Institute of Justice (NIJ) found a correlation between high levels of criminal activity related to pathological gambling. The percentage of pathological gamblers among arrestees was three to five times higher than the general population, and compulsive or pathological gamblers were significantly more likely to have sold drugs than arrestees who fit the other gambling types. 15
In a report titled Casinos, Crime and Community Costs (2004), university researchers found that a casino's effect on crime is low shortly after it opens and grows over time. 16Casino counties had notably higher crime rates than non-casino counties, and, for most offenses, the statistically significant differences tend to appear two or three years after casinos open. 17
Examining Police Records to Assess Gambling Impacts: A Study of Gambling Related Crime in the City of Edmonton is a telling report out of Canada that emphasizes the link between gambling, illegal gambling and crime. It also observes that legalized gambling does not reduce illegal gambling. 18
In a survey of nearly 400 Gamblers Anonymous members, 28 percent reported being either separated or divorced as a direct result of their gambling problems. 19In the National Gambling Impact Study, 20the lifetime divorce rates for problem and pathological gamblers were 39.5 percent and 53.5 percent, respectively; the rate in non-gamblers was 18.2 percent.
In Indiana, a review of the state's gaming commission records revealed that 72 children were found abandoned on casino premises during a 14-month period. 21
Every pathological gambler affects between 10 and 17 individuals including family members and co-workers. 22
A University of Nebraska Medical Center study concluded that problem gambling is as much a risk factor for domestic violence as alcohol abuse.
Domestic violence murders in at least 11 states have been traced to gambling problems since 1996. 24
Three years after casinos were legalized in Deadwood, South Dakota, felony crimes increased by 40 percent, child abuse increased 42 percent, and domestic violence and assaults rose 80 percent. 25
"Suicide attempts among pathological gamblers are higher than for any of the addictions and second only to suicide attempt rates among individuals with major affective disorders, schizophrenia and a few major hereditary disorders," -Dr. Rachel A. Volberg, President of Gemini Research, Ltd. 26
One in five pathological gamblers will attempt suicide, 27while one in ten of their spouses will attempt suicide. 28
In Gulfport, Mississippi, suicides increased by 213 percent (from 24 to 75) in the first two years after casinos arrived. In neighboring Biloxi, suicide attempts jumped by 1,000 percent (from 6 to 66) in the first year alone. 29A survey of nearly 200 Illinois Gamblers Anonymous members found that 66 percent had contemplated suicide, 79 percent had wanted to die, 45 percent had a definite plan to kill themselves, and 16 percent had actually attempted suicide. 30
Focus on the Family opposes all forms of legalized gambling for both moral and pragmatic reasons. We believe the net societal effect of our government's embrace of gambling has been disastrous.
Gambling is driven by and subsists on greed. For this reason, the activity is morally bankrupt from its very foundation. Gambling is also an activity which exploits the vulnerable – the young, the old and those susceptible to addictive behaviors. Further, gambling entices the financially disadvantaged classes with the unrealistic hope of escape from poverty through instant riches – thus, ultimately worsening the plight of our poorest citizens. Also, gambling undermines the work ethic. It is based on the premise of "something for nothing," a concept that sanctions idleness rather than industriousness, slothfulness instead of initiative.
As a ministry, Focus on the Family primarily exists to defend and strengthen families. Gambling and gambling addiction serve to erode the very foundation of strong, healthy families.
The Bible is God's prescription for our continued existence, health, prosperity, happiness and salvation. To live by biblical principles is to live in obedience and submission to the lordship of Jesus Christ and His Word.
Undoubtedly, we all desire to live rewarding and significant lives. This can be fully achieved, but only if we share God's eternal perspective in this life. God's principles are challenged daily as we walk along the exciting and difficult road of life. In Matthew 10:16, Jesus says "Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; so be shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves."
The term "gambling" will not likely be found in a concordance, but the principles that apply to gambling, gambling addiction and the subsequent consequences are readily found throughout the Bible.
The nature of gambling can be described as follows: Gambling is the art and science of intentional deception that feeds on the exploitation of human weakness for the sole purpose of monetary gain. Basically, gambling deceives people in order to exploit them and take their money. What a great business to have in your backyard – or not! Perhaps this is why a survey from the Center for Economic and Civic Opinion at the University of Massachusetts, Lowell found the three most unpopular types of development in our nation to be landfills, power plants and, you guessed it, casinos!1
Consider, for example, the "fruit" of gambling. Matthew 7:15-20 discusses discerning good from bad, false promises and false prophets, and it uses a fruit tree to illustrate:
What "fruit" does gambling produce? Revenue and jobs will be touted by the gambling proponents, but remember the source of this "revenue": deception and exploitation of people. And think about the jobs: deceiving people to take their money, serving alcohol to "lessen" gamblers' inhibitions, scrubbing urine and feces off seats of addicted gamblers, bouncing angry gamblers, catching swindlers. The list of "pristine" jobs goes on.
The "ABCs of Gambling" illustrate a few of the "fruits" that gambling and gambling addiction produce: addiction, bankruptcy, crime, corruption, destruction of families, destruction of marriages, domestic violence, economic destabilization and suicide. Gambling sounds more like a prickly, noxious thistle than a fruit-bearing tree.
The Bible talks about "uneven scales" and practicing deception. This is the "skill" that most proficient gamblers work to develop, and it's that same trickery and dishonesty that casinos use to exploit people and take their money.
Matthew 25:14-30 is the parable of the talents, where stewardship of skills and money is discussed. A number of other parables are scattered throughout the Bible that also discuss good stewardship of resources, skills, effort and finances.