October 14, 2009

Best Slots in Town

"Best Slots in Town!"

Slogans like that lined the highway between our home and Buck Island Chapel, in Tunica County, Mississippi (where I ministered before moving to Cincinnati). Every Sunday, I’d see the latest picture of some nice-looking fellow who’d hit the jackpot … and be urged that I, too, could “WIN BIG at GOLDSTRIKE CASINO!”

It’s a great advertising campaign! You see, most of the people I knew in Tunica, MS (one of the largest gaming communities in the U.S.) were living below the poverty line. It’s always been that way. The county used to be the poorest in the country. But then came the casinos — promising big jackpots, and money for local schools, and more jobs, etc. Sound familiar?

After nearly twenty of gaming, the county’s crime rate has increased exponentially. Violent crimes, which had previously been almost unheard of, are now commonplace. Addiction (to gambling, and to the alcohol that often goes with it) is rampant. Pawn shops litter the surrounding area … fleecing those who cannot afford to gamble, but have to find a way. The schools have beautiful new buildings, but are still among the worst in the state! But statistics cannot really scratch the surface of the wreckage gambling brings with it.

So, let’s put a face on the destructive hoax that is the gaming industry. Consider "Kristy", a young law student from Florida who took a semester off and moved to Tunica to “earn a little extra money, gamble it up, and return to law school” the next year. When I met her, she had been in Tunica for over a year, had moved in (with a new, abusive boyfriend) to one half of a ramshackle, duplexed, single-wide trailer — trapped by gambling debts! That’s what the love of money will do. And the gambling industry greedily throws fuel on the fire.

I have come to think of the casino owners and their promoters as Psalm 10:8 describes the wicked: “He sits in the lurking places of the villages; in the hiding places he kills the innocent; His eyes stealthily watch for the unfortunate.”

You see, all gambling does is make the rich richer … and take advantage of the unfortunate with dreams of gold-strikes that never materialize. It lurks behind empty promises, and devours those whom Jesus came to rescue with good news (Luke 4.18). It brings lots of cash to a city or county … but lots of blight and despair with it. And now they want to bring the blight and despair to Ohio!

So, when you see the commercials promising all sorts of wonderful benefits riding on the casinos’ coat-tails; when you enter the voting booth next month; and especially when you pray … would you remember Tunica? Would you remember "Kristy", and the hundreds of Ohioans destined to repeat her story if issue 3 goes through?

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