by Ken Gardner

Most people regard gambling as a rather innocent pastime. Their thinking seems to be, "Sure, some get carried away and lose more than they should, but that's to be expected, isn't it?" But let's be honest, shall we? Let's look at the facts. According to a recent article in the Dallas Morning News (March 19, 1999), Congress recently commissioned an extensive study of gambling's impact on our society. So far this government commission has determined that there are 5 million "pathological or problem" gamblers in the United States, and 15 million more are at risk of becoming problem gamblers. These "pathological" gamblers, according to the National Academy of Sciences, are "far more likely to commit crimes, run up large debts, damage relationships and kill themselves." Think about it! 5 to 20 million Americans are in serious danger of literally destroying themselves because of gambling! How can any honest and concerned person not consider gambling a grave social problem?!

Of course, gambling has its defenders (as does any vice). They first question the facts: "Five million gamblers! I don't believe it!" They next scoff at whatever dangers are presented: "So some lose their shirts--so what!" One gambling defender, the president of the American Gaming Association, said, "The economic and social benefits of gaming far outweigh the costs to society of pathological and problem gambling." Notice how he refers to gambling as "gaming." He would have us think gambling is just a harmless "game."

Even members of the commission tend to minimize the baneful effects of the vice of gambling. "The economic cost of gambling is 'relatively small'--about $5 billion a year in legal fees for divorce, court and jail costs for arrests, lost wages and bankruptcy." Can you imagine a more cavalier and callused attitude to divorce, arrests and bankruptcy? It just cost us (society) a few dollars in legal costs, that's all. These so-called "costs" may seem small to us, but for the victims of gambling they are huge. These "costs" are suicide and financial ruin and broken homes and destroyed lives! One critic of gambling asked how is it possible to calculate the costs of child abuse or spousal abuse committed by a gambling addict.

The deleterious effects gambling are clear--at least to the unbiased and concerned. As Christians, and as members of the Plano East Church of Christ, we strongly condemn and denounce gambling in all of its forms, including buying lottery tickets. "Abstain from every form of evil" (I Thessalonians 5:17, NASB).