A Bad Bet

  Last January South Carolina's Governor Beasley did the unthinkable. When he prepared his 1998 budget, he gave up $62 million dollars in expected gambling revenues from video poker. He did it because video poker is highly addictive, leads to crime, and harms families. Beasley then went one step further: He challenged the state legislature to ban video poker. The legislature took up his challenge, and two weeks ago, the State House voted to ban video poker. It's an amazing victory, and it's an example of what can happen when Christians work together for the good of their state. When Governor Beasley announced that he would try to outlaw video poker, the pundits laughed—and with good reason. Gambling is a $2 billion industry in South Carolina. And while some states have managed to keep the gambling industry from setting up shop, no state has ever been able to outlaw gambling where it already exists. None of that deterred Governor Beasley. His office encouraged Christians to familiarize themselves with gambling issues, to lobby their legislators, and to pray for the bill's passage. Pastors spoke out on the bill from their pulpits. The result was something lawmakers had never before experienced. Legislators who attended church on Sunday found a crowd of people waiting to speak to them about the gambling bill after the service. Their telephones rang off the hook. Letters from constituents poured in. Almost every one of them said the same thing: Get rid of this insidious industry. The House vote was scheduled for February 11. In the words of Larry Huff, director of family policy for the governor, "lobbying from the gambling interest was intense. During the vote, their hired guns were calling members off the floor to work them over." But lawmakers withstood the pressure. By a margin of 86 to 32, they voted to ban video poker: a modern profile in political courage. When the House leaders arrived at the governor's office to celebrate the victory, there were plenty of hugs and high fives. But the governor was quick to remind the lawmakers Who was really behind the win. God clearly did this, Beasley said—and to God is due the thanks. The governor and his staff then bowed in prayer, thanking God for the victory and praying for the lobbyists, legislators and the video machine owners who opposed them. Beasley's battle against gambling reminds us of another battle against a great social evil some 200 years ago. In 1787 William Wilberforce took on England's powerful slave trade lobby. Slavers and politicians alike were outraged that Christians had the audacity to press for morally based reforms in the political arena. As Lord Melborne put it, "Things have come to a pretty pass when religion is allowed to invade public life." Thank God, Christians of that day did bring religion into public life and put an end to the slave trade. And thank God Governor Beasley and his supporters are now doing the same thing to end another social evil that enslaves millions. The governor's next fight is in the State Senate. If you live in South Carolina, ask your state senator to help ban video poker. Christians across the country should be praying that this bill will pass. If it does, it will send a great and hopeful signal across the country that righteousness can prevail.


Chuck Colson



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