An open letter to a state senator on gambling

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As Georgia lawmakers debate the merits, or lack thereof, to providing gambling and casinos a stronger foothold in the Peach State, Christopher Sanchez, education and evangelism pastor at Northside Baptist Church in Valdosta, decided to write his own senator, Ellis Black, on the matter. 

Information on how to contact your state senator or representative can be found at the end of the most recent Index editorial

Senator Black,

I am one of your newer constituents here in South Georgia having moved to Hahira in February 2016. I have lived in the metropolitan Atlanta area most of my life and consider myself blessed to be living in South Georgia. It is a wonderful place to raise a family and serve God in a local church. Of course, you already know how wonderful living in this part of our great state is!

I was rather disappointed to learn that you are one of the sponsors of Georgia Senate Bill 79 – Destination Resort Act. I wanted to take a moment to express my opposition to this bill. The commercial gambling industry has done an amazing job reinventing itself and convincing the public and government that it is merely a form of entertainment. Only four decades ago the media referred to the rise of gambling in the United States as an “epidemic.” Promises of harmless fun for the gambling public and increased tax revenues for the state have lured many states into approving legalized gambling of one form or another to the detriment of the citizens of their states. The human cost of gambling is rarely spoken of when the entertainment value and potential revenues are being discussed. The industry’s trade association does make mention of the resources they dedicate to such problems but this is after the fact, after lives are ruined and families destroyed.

For many people, gambling becomes a serious problem threatening nearly aspect of daily life. Unlike in years gone by when the existence of problem gambling was disputed, today there is little disagreement. There is a wealth of evidence of the destruction caused by out-of-control gambling. There have been numerous case studies, members of Gamblers Anonymous participating in sociological surveys, and interviews with other individuals that chronicle the debts, outright theft, deceit, violence, failed relationships, depression, and even suicidal thoughts of those trapped in their gambling addiction. This says nothing of the crime, drugs, prostitution, sex trafficking, etc. that accompanies casino gambling wreaking havoc in the communities where the casinos operate. 

Gambling is an exploitive business. There is a very good reason behind the commercial gambling industry’s desire to have their businesses referred to as the “gaming” industry rather than gambling industry. The fact is that gambling is not merely entertainment. It is an activity that drains financial resources from the economy, leads people into addiction, oppresses the poor, and ultimately undermines biblical principles for living the Christian life. 

Using casino gambling to fund education places the state in a difficult position. If gambling revenues decline, the state must either cut spending on education, find another funding source, or assist casinos in returning revenues to their previous levels. If additional revenues for education are desired, taxes on casinos will need to be increased, business at existing casinos increased thereby increasing tax revenues, or additional gambling licenses sold. In the case of the latter, this would likely happen in other parts of the state inflicting all of the above mentioned societal ills upon other communities. 

Declining participation rates in the gambling industry are driving casino owners to seek new markets and paint a much rosier picture than experience many other parts of the country have experienced when their new so-called “destination resorts” opened for business. Senate Bill 79 is bad for Georgia. Sen. Black, I urge you to reconsider your support of this proposed legislation. There are much better ways to create jobs and to raise funding for education than by legalizing immorality. 

May God grant you wisdom on this and the many other issues you and your colleagues will address during this session of the General Assembly.

Blessings,
Christopher Sanchez

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