Bathrobe Gambling

The "Casino of the Kings" has everything a gambler could want: poker, roulette, slot machines and more—twenty-four hours a day. What's more, you can gamble the day away without even getting dressed. "The Casino of Kings" is one of more than 300 Internet gambling sites—sites that demolish what few barriers remain between a casino and a gambler's money. In less than three years, the number of Internet gambling sites has gone from fifteen to more than 300. Last year, an estimated 14 million people bet $651 million on the World Wide Web. Government officials are concerned because operations such as The Casino of Kings, which is based in the Caribbean, operate outside the reach of state and federal regulators. An American placing a bet at one of these sites has no recourse if, for example, the operator refuses to pay when the customer wins. And, of course, government officials have a less altruistic reason not to like Internet gambling: A dollar bet online is a dollar that's NOT being bet at one of America's many state-sponsored gambling venues, where states get a cut of the profits. Well, the government may be worried about money, but Christians ought to be more concerned about how Internet gambling removes another inconvenience that used to stand between citizens and vice. National Public Radio commentator David Salish recently drew an analogy between online gambling and online pornography. As Salish noted, it used to be that boys who wanted to buy a copy of "Playboy" had to deal with the disapproving glance of the store clerk. That inconvenience could be a powerful deterrent. Nowadays, boys can privately peruse much worse pornography on-line—for free. Likewise, anyone who wanted to gamble had to at least take the trouble of getting into his car and driving somewhere, often out of state. This inconvenience probably stopped a lot of people from gambling. Not anymore. Now you can gamble away your savings from the comfort of home. The lesson here is that part of discouraging people from engaging in foolish behavior is making that behavior difficult. In fact, this is one of the essential functions of law. The Christian philosopher and theologian Thomas Aquinas taught that man has a natural aptitude to act morally, but his aptitude must be trained. That training occurs through social conventions, the threat of shame, and the threat of punishment for immoral conduct. When it comes to discouraging Internet gambling, a good place to start is to get behind legislative proposals, including those being considered right now in Congress, that would require Internet service providers like America Online to block access to these overseas gambling sites. Critics argue that technology will make it almost impossible to enforce such laws—that if a site cannot be accessed through AOL, operators will find another way to make the site accessible. That may be true. But the inconvenience involved may keep some people from gambling on a whim. And that's why Christians should support laws curbing internet gambling. Because even if our neighbor is bent on ruining his life through gambling, loving him means, at the very least, making sure he has to get out of his bathrobe to do it.


Chuck Colson



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