Baptists Must Be Vigilant on Gambling

This recent news release from the Kentucky Baptist Convention highlights the need for Kentucky Baptists to be very wary and vigilant regarding attempts to expand gambling that may soon be facing the state:

FRANKFORT – Kentucky Baptist leaders and other experts say that with a gubernatorial election in November, a racing industry in decline and a dedicated expanded-gambling lobby in full force, entuckians are at a crossroads regarding the issue.

The stakes are high according to Kent Ostrander, executive director of the Kentucky Family Foundation, who says history is witness that expanded gambling would victimize citizens.

The toll on individual lives should be as great a concern said Kevin Milburn, pastor of Union Baptist Church and chairman of the Kentucky Baptist Committee on Public Affairs.

“Believers should care about the issue of gambling because to gamble is to be an unwise and unfaithful steward of God’s gifts,” Milburn said. “The Bible reveals that God’s plan for making money is called work. Believers need to understand that gambling can be extremely addictive and is therefore something unwise to play with.”

As pastor of the Boone County congregation, Milburn has seen the effects of gambling up close. Recently, one member of his church lost his marriage and family because of a gambling addiction that began as a hobby.

“While I realize that not everyone who gambles becomes so addicted that they lose their families, I do believe that gambling produces untold heartbreak and sorrow behind the closed doors of our homes while padding the pockets of a smiling gambling industry,” he said. “The enemy is attacking our families and the people of God must oppose any tool he is using to do so.”

The most recent attempt to expand gambling in Kentucky is “instant racing” that allows patrons to use the slots-like machines to bet on previously-run races with the date of the race, track and names of the horses removed.

While gambling advocates claim instant racing machines are legal as a form of pari-mutuel betting, opponents point out that they are marketed with machine names that have nothing to do with horse racing.

In September, Kentucky Downs in Franklin opened a new gambling parlor with 200 instant racing machines. Other tracks may also purchase the machines. The Kentucky Family Foundation has challenged the legality of the machines with the Kentucky Court of Appeals expected to issue a ruling next year.

“When you look at the front of these things, it is simply a slot machine,” Ostrander said. “And how those things are somehow related to (horse) racing is beyond me. There is no way one can confuse ‘Uncle Willy’s Treasure Quest’ (a game on the machines) with a horse race. They are clearly illegal based on the current Kentucky statute, but they are operating in Kentucky.”

“Cash Carnival” and “Cruising for Cash” are other games offered at Kentucky Downs. Expanded gambling is bad public policy, he said, because it raises revenue for the government by taking advantage of citizens.

“It is bad public policy for government to want to make its own citizens losers so that it can gain and its friends can gain,” Ostrander said. “Government should be in the business of protecting and alerting citizens to potential dangers, not bringing the people to those potential dangers.”

Historically, expanded gambling leads to more permissive abortion laws and attacks against the biblical model of marriage and sexuality, he said.

“When gambling comes in, the gambling industry owns the legislature,” Ostrander said. “The gambling industry does not give a whit about the sanctity of life or the sanctity of marriage. … They want you in front of those machines. So the Family Foundation is standing against the corrupting influence of the gambling industry because we know they will be a force in the issues that we really care about.”

As an example of the industry’s corrupting power, he noted that in Las Vegas there are 13 abortion clinics and legalized prostitution—due in large part to the influence on government of gambling corporations. In comparison, the entire state of Kentucky has two abortion clinics.

Kentucky Baptists can play a major role in the fight against gambling by contacting their legislators whenever a gambling-related issue arises, Ostrander said, adding that Baptists have helped stop previous attempts to expand gaming.

KBC Executive Director Paul Chitwood agreed that gambling is a detriment to Kentucky and urged the state’s Baptists to stand against it.

“It’s an important issue for our families because of the destruction that gambling and gambling addiction bring to the family,” he said. “Being a good steward of the resources God has entrusted to us leaves no room for gambling. Also, knowing the plight of children and families that have been affected by gambling and gambling addiction, it really becomes not only a spiritual issue, but a moral issue for us as people of faith.”

Kentucky Baptists are encouraged to contact their state legislators to express their opposition to expanded gambling in Kentucky. The website provides e-mail addresses and toll-free telephone numbers for members of the Kentucky General Assembly.

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