No one got the right combination of Powerball numbers on Saturday. That means that by next Wednesday the jackpot will be around 1.3 billion dollars. I watched on the local news as people from Huntsville drove in large numbers across the Tennessee line to convenience and liquor stores in a driving rain to purchase the tickets.
I’m sitting in a quiet place just thinking about the gambling industry in the United States. It’s not rocket science to figure out that the gamblers are not the real monetary winners in the lottery, at the slot machine, in the online poker games or at the casinos. The house always wins. Of course, gambling, as an industry, exists because of the money that can be made at the expense of those who play. In fact, last Saturday, the odds of an individual winning the lottery were one in 292.2 million. People don’t gamble because there’s money in gambling. The statistical truth is, the more you gamble, the more you lose. That’s just the way the gambling numbers crunch.
So why? What is it that made Americans spend about $700,000,000 last weekend on a venture that yielded nothing for almost every investor? Why do people put money into something that has known odds like 292.2 million-to-one of winning.
If it were only about people who are financially set playing around with some discretionary income, there would still be a lot wrong with gambling, but, those of us who have seen the effects of gambling up-close know that it is often about children going hungry and marriages suffering. It’s about dishonesty, theft and extortion. When the gambler is addicted, it involves a loss of control that’s just as real and difficult to regain as any slavery to drugs, alcohol or sex.
It’s the reason for gambling, of course, that makes it wrong in the first place. Gambling is an immoral ethic brought to the gaming level. Gambling is borne of a desire to gain something of a material nature at the expense of every other involved party. In other words, to gamble, you have to wish that everyone else would lose money so that you can gain. It’s an ethic that violates the golden rule. Secondly, of course, it’s wrong if it replaces the healthy work ethic that the Bible commands Christians to maintain. It would be sinful, of course, when a Father neglects the command to provide for his own family (I Timothy 5:8) while wasting the family income in gaming. That man is worse than an infidel according to this passage. Finally, the very fact that it is addictive makes it wrong. If an action has the propensity to overtake the will of a human being to the point that he can no longer deny himself the engagement in it, he becomes its slave and destructive behaviors and consequences necessarily follow.
Perhaps more important, though, to me today, than showing the reasons gambling is wrong (I believe the smart women who are reading are generally already convinced of that.) is helping our kids and grandkids to avoid becoming involved. There have been people with whom my husband has counseled who have lost so many very valuable commodities because of gambling addictions: houses, family trust, jobs, respect of community, college scholarships, relationships with children, relationships with God—and the list goes on. I’ve seen children denied the privilege of competent parents. I’ve seen them discover that their parents had squandered their (the children’s) money intended for college. I’ve seen children embarrassed beyond what I could describe when they understood their parents had deceived people they know and love—all because of a gambling addiction. The children still love their mom or dad. They still desperately want to respect them, but life has fallen apart and the security these children once enjoyed is permanently laid to rest in a memory.
I don’t want our kids to grow up and be vulnerable to this kind of destruction by Satan. But, rest assured, as governments around us continue to promote this evil, more and more of our children will fall prey to gambling addictions, particularly with the easy accessibility of internet gambling today. Hawaii and Utah are currently the only states with no forms of legal gambling. It has been proven that accessibility to gambling drives the problem and addicted gambler numbers up. States, like Nevada, with many casinos, have far higher rates of addicted gamblers. Some experts now believe that a full ten percent of Nevada’s children are at risk to grow up and be problem gamblers.
But the government promotion and wide acceptance of gambling only exacerbates the ultimate damage done. More and more gamblers become addicted. It’s just math and the devil knows the numbers. The more venues, the more addicts. The more addicts, the more devastation. More than half of pathological gamblers end up stealing money. The average Gamblers Anonymous member will have spent all of his or her money and accrued debts between $35,000 and $92,000 before even seeking help. Thousands file for bankruptcy and many who can’t be helped commit suicide.
My point is this. Our kids, because they have easier access to gambling venues than any previous generation in America, need us as parents to put defensive mechanisms in their little psyches early on. We can help them be forever free of this enslaving entrapment of the devil. I don’t know all of the answers, but surely we can notice some no-brainers with regard to gambling as we parent our children to freedom from sin. Here are half a dozen:
1. Don’t gamble. Now that’s an oversimplification, you may observe, but I find it pretty amazing that there are plenty of parents who would never will their children to be even weekend casino cruisers, much less desperate pathological gamblers, who will, themselves, stop off at the gas station and pick up a lotto ticket. Come on, parents. Don’t take your kids for little chumps. They see inconsistencies and they “listen” more to your life than your lips.
2. Don’t wink at the “innocent” gambling venues. Raffles (even for good causes), fairground gaming…all the things you may think of as “little white” gambling, to borrow a figure of speech, can open the door to the bigger world of gaming. You may be cracking the door to a monster who will elbow his way in before you know it. Just say “no” in your home to all forms of gambling.
3. Talk about ethics with your kids. At every opportunity, bring your children real situations that you are observing around you. Have them help you decide what is fair and just and what course of action follows the golden rule. This will help them develop morality that will apply in a vast array of decision-making opportunities.
4. Make your children aware of situations in which gambling has brought devastation and destruction. You can find these easily online, but most of you probably know of situations personally from which your children can learn. You can reserve names in cases where your children may know the families, but it’s important for our kids to be able to learn from the mistakes of others.
5. Stay away from casinos. Some Christians are okay with vacationing in casino hotels and eating in casino restaurants. I find such very unwise. Why would we want to cheapen our family time together by being in a place of rampant sin? Why would we want to make our children feel comfortable in a place that’s responsible for the theft of morality and means from so many families? I don’t want to be there.
6. Let your children know that you are staying on top of politics in your community that involve gambling. Be sure to take them with you when you vote and let them know that you’re doing all you can to minimize the accessibility of gambling to the families in your community. Let them hear you pray for success in your fight against gambling, both in community and in the preparation of their hearts.
(And, by the way, don’t offer up that line about how you buy a ticket so that, if you win, you can do so much good and spread the gospel. If the end justifies the means, let’s go ahead and steal and extort, too…just as long as we plan to use the money we gain for good things.)
http://bit.ly/1OJnxzp (Associated Press, ABC15.com)
http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/gamble/procon/horn.html (Frontline, Bernard Horn, “Is There a Cure for America’s Gambling Addiction?”)