By Mark Anderson
On Nov. 2 the voters of Cape Girardeau will decide if Cape Girardeau should have a casino. There are several issues related to this vote which affect everyone in our city, regardless of one's religious or non-religious affiliation.
* Biblical issue: The Bible teaches we are to be wise stewards of the resources God has given us. The money we possess actually belongs to Him and is to be used for His purpose and glory. We are to depend on Him for our needs (Matthew 6:33). Gambling depends on chance. The root of gambling is coveting (Exodus 20:17). What often begins as something "fun" leads to addictive and evil behavior. Ultimately, gambling is a sin against oneself, society and God.
* Family issue: The average rate of divorce for problem gamblers is nearly double that of non-gamblers. Increase in abuse is directly related to gambling. Gambling among teenagers is on the increase: 42 percent of 14-year-olds, 49 percent of 15-year-olds, 63 percent of 16-year-olds, 76 percent of 18-year-olds.
* Emotional issue: Unhappiness, anxiety, depression and addictive behaviors all increase with gamblers. Fifteen million people display some sign of gambling addiction.
* Financial issue: The average debt incurred by a male pathological gambler in the U.S. is between $55,000 and $90,000 ($15,000 for female gamblers). In 1998 people who engaged in legalized gambling in the U.S. lost $50 billion. Do I really believe the casino industry wants me to win? They want me to gamble and rarely, if ever, win while they make billions. It's a vicious cycle that is absolutely illogical and irrational.
* Life issue: The suicide rate for pathological gamblers is 20 times higher than for non-gamblers. Suicide rates for the spouse of gamblers are also higher.
* Ethical issue: Is it right to use the loss of one so another can gain? We're counting on the gambler to lose money in order to fund our needs and wants. We are to help others not take advantage of them.
* Societal issue: Eighteen percent of people living in rescue missions across the U.S. cited gambling as a cause of their homelessness. Homelessness, poverty, etc. all increase from gambling. The 50,000 pathological gamblers in Maryland affect more the 850,000 people according to the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. That means 17 other people are affected by every pathological gambler.
* Business issue: How will a casino affect local businesses? Some believe it will draw more tourists to their stores or restaurants. The Denver Rocky Mountain News reported in 1992 that the number of retail shops in Cripple Creek, Colo., where casinos were legalized in 1990, fell from 60 to 10.
* Crime issue: Sixty-five percent of pathological gamblers commit crimes to support their gambling habit. The New Jersey Council on Compulsive Gambling estimates that about 85 percent of compulsive gamblers have stolen from their employers to pay debts. Atlantic City, N.J., legalized casinos in 1978. The population declined nearly 18 percent in the next eight years, while crime rates tripled. Cities with casinos have had to spend more money for police protection.
Some may argue they are not worried about the "pathological" gambler. It's like saying, "We'll gamble on the deal even though it will break up only a few families, drive only a few businesses out of existence and create only a limited amount of serious counseling." Can you assure us that no one will become a gambling addict with all the negative results of that addiction? Initial funds from the casino will only help meet an immediate, temporary need while creating long term problems for our community, both financially and behaviorally.
Mark Anderson is the senior pastor at Lynwood Baptist Church in Cape Girardeau.