Gambling in America has reached epidemic proportions. The American Gaming Association reports Americans spent $261 billion on gambling in 2017, up $25 billion, or 9.5%, since 2014. Gambling addiction obviously increases with gambling opportunities. So what is the sense of more states legalizing casinos and the Supreme Court opening up sports gambling?

Casino revenues in America have grown from $66 billion to $77 billion, or 17%, over the last five years. Online gambling has increased from $46 billion to $55 billion in the last two years alone for a growth of 20%. This portal for gambling puts a casino in almost everyone’s hand including underage participants. Earlier this year, the Supreme Court struck down a 25-year-old law that had banned sports betting outside of Las Vegas. States are now in a feeding frenzy to legalize this new venue for gambling.

While gambling explodes across the nation, compulsive gambling is skyrocketing as rehab organizations scramble to catch up to the demand of addicts. America is second only to Canada in having the most problem gamblers in the world. America is 5th in the world for number of gamblers per capita, but first in gambling losses. Gambling addiction is not just an individual problem. Over 50% of these addicts commit crimes to support their addiction. Half of them abuse their spouses, and 17% abuse their children. Forty-four percent are also alcoholics.

Despite attempts to justify gambling economically, it is rarely an economic plus. Casinos always justify themselves as huge contributors to the tax coffers. Of course, taxes from casinos do flow into the various levels of government, although it is a regressive tax disfavoring the poor. The outflow from the government to fund addiction programs, regulatory agencies, and law enforcement directly associated with gambling often offsets or exceeds the tax revenues. A State of Florida cost-benefit study found annual benefits from gambling averaged $536 million compared to average annual social and support costs of $3.25 billion for a net cost of $2.71 billion to the state’s residents. Casinos tend to draw crime. Real estate values drop in casino cities. Business productivity declines in the vicinity of gambling activities. Casino patrons don’t typically frequent local restaurants and shops, so gambling usually takes away from other businesses. Now, internet gambling is exponentially drawing more business away from casinos, and online betting income doesn’t make its way to government tax treasuries. Internet gamblers hardly ever pay taxes on their winnings.

If you can never be convinced that gambling will ever be a problem for you, should you not oppose it just for the damage it does to others? I would also offer the idea that gambling is simply wrong on its own moral and ethical merits. I had a former pastor who believed gambling was essentially stealing. After much thought, I concluded he was right. His rationale was that gambling boiled down to taking money from someone who didn’t want you to have it. Although gamblers willfully put their money at risk, none of them wants to lose. When any gambler wins, they take money from others who didn’t want to give it to them. Hence, legal theft by broad definition and not something to feel good about. His answer to people claiming that gambling was not specifically prohibited by the Bible was that the only two biblical ways to gain money are to earn it or receive it as a gift. Gambling involves neither.

So, when you have an opportunity to gamble, I encourage you to take the higher road of using your wealth for needed goods and services rather than pursuing other people’s money giving them nothing in return. When you have an occasion to exercise your patriotic duty in deciding on support or denial of any form of gambling, again take the higher road of voting for more wholesome use of God-given resources.

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