Saturday, June 10, 2006

INDIANA'S GROWING ADDICTION TO--AND RELIANCE ON--GAMING

The photo and story in this morning's Indianapolis Star regarding over 2,000 people lining up for jobs at yet another casino in Indiana--this time in Orange County--is disheartening to me. My heart goes out to these folks who want and need employment. My heart also goes out to all whose lives have been destroyed by gambling and the milieu of gaming. The moral and social challenges far outweigh the economic opportunities, it seems to me.

ONSLAUGHT OF GAMING. Have you noticed the steadily escalating influence of the gaming industry in Indiana over the past ten years? I have. First the lottery. We were told "it's good because it funds education." "Fun is good," the Indiana Lottery folks told us, cackling. Then floating casinos were approved by state legislators. It helped keep Indiana dollars in Indiana, we were told. Then legislators approved trackside gambling at a growing number of horse-racing tracks. I sat in committee meetings while Senator Larry Borst lauded the glories of horse-race betting. Then came a proposal to fund the new Colts stadium with slot machines in downtown Indy. It was dead on arrival. Now an economically troubled county far from any navigable river is pinning hopes for its wealth and happiness on a casino. What next?

NOT JUST A GAME. "Gaming" is the neutered word that seems to take any inference of "wrong" or hint of "bad" out of gambling. Regardless of the spin, gambling is not just a game. "Gaming" is not morally neutral, as far as I am concerned. It's addictive and poverty-preying downsides are significant and destructive. The baggage it brings with it is morally decadent and socially damaging. Gambling fosters poor judgment, unhealthy thinking, unscrupulous behavior, and an addiction that most deny actually exists. Further, reliance on "gaming" as a means of economic stability and funding for essential educational and social services is incredibly irresponsible.

WHAT WE HAVE TO LOSE. Indiana can do better than to slide further into gambling's clutches. We can do better than count on casinos for money to fund public schools. Maybe it's time to take a second look at what we've gotten ourselves into. Who's studying the downside of Indiana "gaming?" Let the press do its responsible work. Quit buying the spin. Let's find out what's happening to the lives of Hoosiers who are caught in gambling addiction. Let's find out what's happening "on the side" at Indiana casinos. Let's learn about the hidden costs behind the lauded benefits.

2 comments:

  1. Dear John -- While I agree with you about the morality of gaming I also feel like the Church (yours and mine among others) has been complicit in this. We speak loudly against this type of economic development (which really destroys) -- but our denominations are silent and absent in offering alternatives -- especially in the communities of which they are a part. I hear the United Methodist Church, for example, give a loud "NO" to what is happening in Orange County -- but where is the loud "YES" that we should be shouting? Don't we give up the moral authority to shout NO, when we don't do a damn thing about the problem except (at the least) stand outside and admire it or (at the worst) actively contribute to it by closing and downsizing churches in our lowest income communities (thus pulling out what meager support we had for the local economies). That is not at all to mention the abdication of our responsibility and commitment to the economies -- both of money and of culture and land and creatures that are our community (I think of Wendell Berry's fine essay that I know you know, entitled God & Country in What are People For?

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  2. Pastor John: I agree with you on this one. It's sad to see people pinning their hopes & dreams on some "winning ticket" to bring fulfillment - or possibly financial salvation - to their lives. What would happen if people they took just half of what they'd usually spend on the lottery or at the casino and put it into a savings account? How much could they have built up?

    On the lighter side, I must say that the laugh at the end of "Fun is good" commercial is one of the most annoying.

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