Issue 3

It is almost November in Ohio. And yes, that will mean another gambling issue on the ballot. The airwaves are full of claims and counterclaims about the jobs that may or may not be created in Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus and Toledo—the four cities that will be “blessed” by casinos should Issue 3 pass on November 3. The effort is being spearheaded by Penn National Gaming and Cleveland Cavaliers owner, Dan Gilbert. Keep in mind that this is a constitutional amendment. As such, it would create a permanent, state-sanctioned monopoly for these business interests.

From a Christian point of view, this is not really an issue about jobs, the economy or high-powered financial dealings. It is an issue about morality. Ohio already has the lottery, race tracks, dog tracks, church-run(!) bingo and many other forms of gambling. Do we really need more temptation and more sin in our lives?

Gambling is dishonest (Proverbs 6:16-19). Casinos want you to believe that you can win, but their games are stacked in the house’s favor. Anyone who comes up with a system to beat the odds is shown the door, or worse.

Gambling shows a lack of love for fellow man (Matthew 22:36-40). Drug dealers are thrown in jail. Shady business characters who swindle clients are fined or locked up. But casinos can peddle their wares with impunity and create new addicts in the process. Other wrongdoers may have to pay restitution, but casinos suffer no consequences if the children of gamblers end up cold, hungry, and homeless.

Gambling is poor stewardship (Matthew 25:14-30). Some will say that gambling is a form of entertainment. This is a bad analogy. When we buy a movie ticket, we expect to get our money’s worth. Imagine spending $6 on a ticket, and then having to spin a wheel or pick a card to see how many minutes of the movie you will get to watch, if any. People want to win at gambling or at least break even, but this is nearly impossible: the odds are against them. Money spent on gambling is neither a wise investment nor a substitute for honest labor.

Polls over the last few weeks have shown that Ohioans are in favor of Issue 3. This seems odd. The good citizens of this state have voted it down four times in the past—the latest being just last year. Why would they change their minds? It is hard to say for sure. Perhaps the relentless, selfish business interests have worn them down. Perhaps the economy is a factor. Empty wallets and bare cupboards can overcome resistance based on feelings, tradition, or preference. We need principled objections based on God’s eternal truth.

Fortunately, those poll numbers seemed to have narrowed recently (48% for, 44% against, as of October 15). The tide may be turning against Issue 3. We cannot be complacent, however. Jesus calls on us to be salt and light to the perishing world (Matthew 5:13-16). We cannot think that someone else will come out on November 3 and pass the decisive “No” vote. Each of us has to make our voice heard.

Note: The Alkire Road Church of Christ, as a not-for-profit 501(c)(3) corporation, may not endorse a particular candidate for elected office. However, churches have a First Amendment right to speak out on moral issues, including the distribution of voter guides and the promotion of ballot initiatives. According to legal precedent, such lobbying activities must not occupy a “substantial” part of the church’s activities. What is “substantial?” Let me put it this way: since 1934, when the lobbying restriction was added to the Internal Revenue Code, not one church has lost its tax-exempt status for speaking out on moral issues.

© 2009 – 2010, Trevor Major. All rights reserved.

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