Resolution Opposing Gambling in New York State

Adopted by the Council
September, 2012

The New York State Council of Churches:

  • Supports strict regulation of gambling and enforcement of the Internet gambling ban.
  • Opposes Governor Cuomo’s plan for expansion of casino gambling in New York State while honoring the sovereignty of our Native American Nations.
  • Encourages our church members to refrain from all forms of gambling practices carried on in our communities.
  • Seeks to influence community organizations to develop forms of funding that do not depend upon gambling.

For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, and in their eagerness to be rich, some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pains. 1 Timothy 6:10, NRSV

The overwhelming influence of gambling monies allows this industry access to all levels of government and extends even to elected public officials who benefit from contributions to their campaigns.

The New York State Council of Churches has been concerned about this issue for many years.  In 1992, the Council stated:  “Gambling is destructive to personal initiative and can become compulsive by offering illusory hopes of sudden fortune.”  The church is often a "voice crying in the wilderness" as states, counties, and cities look to gambling revenue as an answer to filling budget gaps. U.S. society does not want to pay for the services we expect from government, raising taxes is anathema while balancing state and local budgets through gambling is embraced.
     The Christian faith teaches us that hope is something to practice and aspire to.  It can protect us from discouragement, separate us from selfishness, and sustain us in times of grief or trial. Hope can keep us properly focused, and keep us oriented toward the good.   Hope’s main competitor is luck. To believe in luck is to believe that getting what we desire is a matter primarily governed by chance, or by unknown forces beyond our reach.
     Hope and luck are incompatible ways of seeing the world.  A world we believe is governed by hope is a world that is meaningful.  A world we believe is governed by luck is a world that is random.  A reliance on hope fosters positive activity—hopeful is something we can “be,” and hope is something we can live out and practice.  By contrast, a reliance on luck fosters passivity—lucky is something we simply “get,” and luck is something that just happens to us, like the weather.
     The principal tenet of gambling is luck -- luck powerful and magical enough to overcome the mathematical laws of the universe, since every gambler is placing a bet against a system that has every mathematical law of probability firmly on its side.
Gambling depends on undermining hope and replacing it with a belief in luck as the pathway to success and happiness.
     Gambling is a terrible example of stewardship of the resources God gives us; it creates social costs that are hidden and often do not become apparent until long after lotteries, casinos, betting parlors and game rooms have become entrenched in communities.
     The National Research Council found that "many families of pathological gamblers suffer from a variety of financial hardships" and "children of compulsive gamblers are more likely to engage in delinquent behaviors such as smoking, drinking, and using drugs" as well as an increased risk of becoming pathological gamblers.
     It is hard to measure the cost to our society of job loss, unemployment benefits, welfare benefits, poor physical and mental health, and treatment for problem and pathological gamblers.

From the United Methodist Book of Resolutions 2003:

Gambling, as a means of acquiring material gain by chance and at the neighbor's expense, is a menace to personal character and social morality. Gambling fosters greed and stimulates the fatalistic faith in chance. Organized and commercial gambling is a threat to business, breeds crime and poverty, and is destructive to the interests of good government. It encourages the belief that work is unimportant, that money can solve all our problems, and that greed is the norm for achievement. It serves as a 'regressive tax' on those with lower income. In summary, gambling is bad economics; gambling is bad public policy; and gambling does not improve the quality of life.