KBC Leaders Write Senators Re: Casinos

Kentucky Senate chambers

Kentucky Baptist Convention leaders sent a letter on Friday to all Kentucky state senators outlining the KBC’s opposition to proposals to expand gambling in the Commonwealth and spelling out some of the reasons all citizens should be concerned about these proposals. The letter is signed by KBC Executive Director Paul Chitwood, Committee on Public Affairs Chairman Chip Hutcheson and KBC President Adam Greenway.

Here’s the text of the letter:

Dear Senator:

We are sending this letter to all Kentucky state senators to express the opposition of the Kentucky Baptist Convention to all proposals that could lead to the expansion of gambling in the Commonwealth. We serve as leaders within a convention of nearly 2,400 churches in every area of Kentucky. Messengers to our annual meetings have consistently voted to oppose any form of expanded gambling.

As you might expect, we have serious moral concerns about gambling but the reasons for our opposition are about more than religious beliefs. We also have grave concerns about these proposals from economic and public policy perspectives.

First, let us address moral concerns that we think reflect the values of many Kentucky citizens. Specifically, gambling violates a number of biblical principles in that it encourages individuals to put their faith in something other than God (Isaiah 65:11, Exodus 20:3); elevates materialistic gain to a dominant place in a person’s life (1 Timothy 6:10, Luke 12:15); encourages gain at the expense of our “neighbors” (Matthew 22:37-40, Mark 12:28-34); discourages a proper work ethic (Exodus 20:9, Ephesians 4:28); and hurts our Christian witness to others (Acts. 10:38, I Corinthians 10:31-33).

We realize that for individuals who do not share our faith, some of these concerns may not seem applicable. We believe, however, that all Kentuckians can agree that government, which has been established to promote the welfare of the people, should not be involved instead in promoting activities that will hurt individuals and families. The American Psychological Association estimates 2 percent to 4 percent of Americans have an active gambling problem. Studies also show that slots, the predominant game in any casino, is the most addictive form of gambling. If one of your family members were to be sacrificed as one of the many who will be in that 2 to 4 percent, would you want casinos in Kentucky? Are you willing to sacrifice 2 to 4 percent of your constituents? You may want to check out the 60 Minutes story from Jan. 9, 2011, “Slot Machines: The Big Gamble” on CBSNews.com for more on the human toll of casinos.

Gambling expansion is also a bad economic move for Kentucky, especially at a time when citizens are fighting to pull our economy out of recession. While state government coffers may see some very short term gains, you only need to look at the budget situations of other states that already have casinos to realize that gambling expansion is a very short-sighted approach to solving our state budget woes. Slot machines and gambling tables are played primarily by locals so dollars that are spent in casinos are simply dollars that are not being spent in more productive and helpful businesses within the local community. Casinos produce nothing and will ultimately be a drain on the economy rather than a help. The Lexington Herald-Leader story from Jan. 16, “Casinos no cure-all for state budgets, economists say,” provides an excellent analysis of the impact of casinos on the various states that have already taken this path.

We are also concerned that bringing casino gambling will lead to corruption in our political system. Do we really want our Commonwealth to be dependent on the gambling industry for a significant portion of state revenue? Once casinos are in, an inordinate amount of time will be spent every single year simply managing legislation related to gambling as the industry asks for approval of new games or for adjustments in their tax rates or fees because revenue isn’t coming in as projected. The gambling industry is all about “the bottom line.” Will gambling be allowed to continually expand as profits become harder to come by? Will other vices be legalized with the justification used that they are necessary to make the casinos more attractive?

As a member of the Senate, you will be required to vote for or against casino gambling.  Those who propose that the General Assembly allow the people of Kentucky to make the decision are misrepresenting the way our government works. Since we do not operate by referendum, the citizens of Kentucky can only ratify the vote of the legislature. If you oppose casino gambling, please do not go on record voting in favor of it.

To the majority of Kentucky senators who have fought and voted against gambling expansion in the past, we say “thank you” and “please continue to fight the good fight.” To senators who have in the past taken a pro-gambling industry position, we humbly ask that you reconsider.

Thank you so much for your service in the Kentucky General Assembly and for all you do in working for the betterment of our Commonwealth. We know that you have a difficult job and we pray for you daily that God will give you wisdom and discernment as you make decisions.

Sincerely,

Paul Chitwood, Executive Director

Chip Hutcheson, Chairman, KBC Committee on Public Affairs

Adam Greenway, President

As important as it is for leaders like these to take a stand on this issue, it’s even more important for Kentucky citizens from throughout the Commonwealth to call their state senators and ask them to vote “no.” The number is 1-800-372-7181. It will only take a few minutes. A courteous receptionist for the legislative message line will answer and get your name and address which she’ll then use to identify your senator for you. You then just need to give a simple but polite message like, “Please vote ‘no’ on expanded gambling.”

The messages that senators receive on issues are then put on green slips of paper and delivered to the senator’s office where they are sorted based on the issue and the message of the caller. Legislators tell us repeatedly about how important these “green slips” are for communicating how constituents feel about an issue. Legislators can see just by the size of the stacks whether their constituents favor, oppose or just don’t really care about an issue.

If you want your legislators — especially your state senator — to care about the damage casinos will do to our communities and families, please call today. If you’ve been putting it off, don’t do so any longer. Although this issue comes up every year, this is the tightest the fight has ever been. Your voice matters and your voice is needed now!

 

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