Saturday, October 14, 2006


As I've mentioned before, the only time I use this blog to express a political opinion--in other words, a policy preference--is when I feel that an issue is clear-cut from a Christian perspective.

Government-sanctioned big-time gambling falls in this category.

I've got no problem with the neighborhood or office football pool or similar friendly competitions. I've even entered one of those a time or two myself.

But if it were up to me, every state lottery and casino would be shut down now.

It strikes me as particularly unhealthy for agencies of state governments, like lottery commissions, which ostensibly work for voters and citizens like you and me, to entice vulnerable, desperate people to squander their dollars on the false promise of a big payoff.

How many impoverished families have found their poverty deepened because an easily-accessed lottery ticket has incentivized them to addiction? The number is probably incalculable.

Lotteries and other sanctioned gambling make our states (and by extension, all of us) bigger enablers than parents or spouses who bankroll their loved-ones' cocaine or crack habits.

I have similar sentiments about Internet gambling, especially relative to its effects on young people. The unreality of the Internet can lead some, especially the young and vulnerable, to think that all that cash they're losing online is like Monopoly money. Not real. And it's very easy for young people, thrilled by the hunt, to say that they really are over age 18 and know what they're doing.

That's why I'm pleased with the legislation passed by Congress yesterday:
Placing bets over the Internet was effectively criminalized by the federal government yesterday, as lawmakers work to eliminate an activity enjoyed by as many as 23 million Americans who wagered an estimated $6 billion last year.

Attached to a port-security bill signed by President Bush yesterday was the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act, which prohibits online gamblers from using credit cards, checks and electronic fund transfers to place and settle bets. The law puts enforcement on the shoulders of banks and other U.S. financial institutions, some of which fought the legislation.
Want to waste your money? Go out for dinner. Go to a movie. Buy a book. Pay for the toll of the person behind you on the expressway or anonymously for that family at the next table in the restaurant. Or, sheesh, I don't know, give to the Boys and Girls Club, the Red Cross, Lutheran Social Services (the biggest non-governmental social services system in America), your favorite college or university, or your local church. All of them are a safer bet than a lottery ticket, that's for sure.

It strikes me that whatever one's philosophical bent--conservative, liberal, moderate, libertarian, religious, irreligious, whatever--it makes no sense for the state to be in the business of enabling addiction.

What do you think?


Anonymous said...

Being the wife of a compulsive gambler that has borrowed $72,000 @ 20% interest, I completly agree with your blog on gambling. Our governments are allowing/encouraging this destrictive behavior to all. I use to go to the casinos with my husband, gamble $100 here and there, but now I want to throw up when I see or hear an advertisement for these pits of dispair. And of course when I found out about the problem, it wasn't a problem. I had the problem for not allowing him to do what he wanted. Our marriage is hanging on threads right now, my life will never be the same, his life for sure will never be the same. Why is there such encouragement for an addiction. Ultimately, that is what it is turning into more and more.

Mark Daniels said...

Your experience is powerful testimony and I wish that there were a greater understanding of how destructive this addiction is. Thank you for sharing. I pray that there can be recovery for your husband...and you!

Blessings in Christ,

libbymitchell said...

Great to see that you have taken the trouble to create an important conversation here Mark...and many thanks too.

I lost my home, my life savings and almost my family and my own life as well, to those dreadful slot machines that are so inherently dangerous, designed to purposely addict vulnerable human beings...who do exactly what they are meant to do...over-spend on playing them!

I completely agree that citizens, via their governments, are just as much responsible for allowing these insidious 'fun toys' to continue to exist in our communities that are being bled dry by electronic gaming machines. These machines are not fun..they are brutally destructive.

We ALL lose out except the gaming industry in the end...government has to foot the bill for all of the indirect costs of the 'tragedy money' called gambling revenue...the divorces, the bankruptcies, the jailings, the suicides, the kids left unfed, the landlords fleeced when rentals are not paid...the LOT! The costs of these machines far outweigh their revenue benefits...just the 'costs' take longer to show out and the governments need 'quick fix funds' so they allow the gaming industry to expand. Then THEY get addicted themselves.

Yet the gaming industry and the governments who make excuses to win 'fast bucks' tell us all that some 'stupid people' are the problem...NO ...those wretched high -powered slot machines are the real problem..they are defective products and if they were cars they would be banned for being just too unsafe.

People also need to have a proper licence to play that addiction is understood before it actually creeps up on players, too embarrassed by the time they work it all out, to seek help to overcome their addiction. Warning signs on machines cannot be read by the blind and intellectually disabled...nor those others too addicted...too far down the track to listen. Warning must be given BEFORE damage begins.

A licence and a mandatory 'smart card' for ALL slots players would fix well as fixing crime and money-laundering that goes hand in hand with slot machine gambling...that we ALL pay for.

Please help us in our world fight to demand of all involved governments world-wide...that ALL slots players MUST hold a gambling licence (like shooters must hold...and others undertaking dangerous pursuits) before they play these subliminally hypnotic and fraudulent machines. The majority of players the majority of players would be helped...the card would not be an invasion of rights that deserve to be the right to protection from harm and crime should over-ride the right to freedom and privacy.

Also please could you help us to get the only 'safeguard' that is KNOWN to work to curb overspending on slot machines (or VLT's, Poker machines, EGM's and whatever else they are commonly called)...player 'smart cards' for ALL players...with a self-limit betting feature...that also tallies what the player has spent? That tracks money spent if crime occurs and tracks spending to warn families early enough to help their loved ones?

Governments delay in discussing these solutions as it is knows that they are the only plans that would effectively work...Instead they encourage discussion of every other wishy-washy idea that will not work and avoid the ideas that would be able to be successfully help players to stay safe!

Sadly so many non-players still believe that they may as well 'cash in' by getting 'free' money from another stupid person's loss...hence they allow slots to remain as they think that they are 'scoring' themselves...but they are not...and we all pay out far more in damage management than the slots earn for us...the machines should be banned altogether world-wide BUT using effective safeguards is meanwhile better than nothing.

If you or anybody interested wants to email

to say hello and to register your support for our cause..please feel free to do so.

Have a peaceful and safe Christmas...Libby Mitchell... from Australia.
(my email will be closed for a few days because I am travelling...but feel free to copy me in too...cheers)