A Moral Crapshoot

We've all heard about the "V-chip," the device that allows parents to block out violent television programs. But lately I’ve begun to think that what viewers really need is a "T-chip" that is, a "truth chip." Whenever our cultural, business, and political leaders lie to us, the T-chip would flash across our TV screens the following message: "Don't believe a word they're saying!" The T-chip message would probably light up our screens every time the subject of gambling came up. Why? Because supporters tout gambling as a "magic bullet" for economically depressed communities despite overwhelming evidence that the gambling "cure" harms more than it helps. Pro-gambling lobbyists hide gambling’s corrosive effects behind promises of glittering gains. Does your town need economic development and a boost in tax revenues? Open a casino. Or let the government come in and run video poker, keno, or lotteries. Thirty-six states have already decided to "let it roll." And now these states are dependent, some highly dependent, on gambling revenue to fund important budget items, like education, that citizens are unwilling to pay for. Last year Americans bet $482 billion. Put another way, seven cents out of every dollar produced by the U.S. economy was spent in the attempt to get something for nothing. What’s lost in the shuffle is the fact that most people don’t get something for nothing. If Americans really did have a television truth chip, we'd see the downcast faces of people like Betty Yakey of Concordia Parish, Louisiana. Yakey was addicted to video poker, known as the "crack cocaine" of legalized gambling, and she lost her entire life's savings: $191,000. Maryland lottery chief Lloyd Jones blithely calls gambling a "low-risk, nonaddictive form of entertainment." But a T-chip would identify that statement as a lie. Gambling is a magnet for crime and addiction?addiction that often leads to family breakdown. And police chiefs across the country warn that crime has a way of following wherever gambling is introduced, even in small towns. That’s because some gamblers will commit everything from property crime to armed robbery to get their hands on cash with which to gamble. Those are good reasons why our lawmakers shouldn’t promote gambling as a panacea for economic woes. And as Christians, we should also oppose gambling because it encourages people to substitute faith in God’s provision with the illusion that trusting in luck is the surest route to wealth and happiness. The good news is that some of our lawmakers are demanding a "time out" to study gambling’s downside. The House of Representatives has passed a bill that would establish a commission to study the social and economic effects of gambling. The bad news is that gambling interests are spending big money to stop this bill from passing. You and I ought to call our senators and urge them to pass S. 704, the gambling commission bill. And contact Sen. Ted Stevens, who heads up the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee. Ask him not to let gambling interests dilute this important legislation. Of course, engineers can’t really develop a truth chip for our televisions. But we ought to let our lawmakers know that when it comes to the so-called benefits of gambling, we know a lie when we hear one. All senators and representatives may be reached at (202) 224-3121.


Chuck Colson



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