ATLANTA — The Pastors Day at the Capitol on Thursday turned into a demonstration against the evils of gambling.
After hearing powerful messages from Brad Hughes, political director for the Georgia GOP, Marty Harbin, Georgia state senator from District 16, and Emir Caner, president of Truett-McConnell University, about 60 Georgia Baptist pastors filled room 310 of the Paul D. Coverdale Building across from the Capitol to hear proceedings about a proposed casino gambling bill.
The Senate Regulated Industries and Utilities Committee heard Senator Brandon Beach from District 21 make his appeal for Senate Bill 79 – the Destination Resort Act. No one could have painted a rosier or more disingenuous picture of the gaming industry than Beach did.
In fact, one senator asked Beach if he was using the word “gaming “– like game hunting and fishing – instead of “gambling” to soften the negative connotations of the industry that cannibalizes other businesses, seduces unwary citizens to relieve them of their bank accounts, and exploits those addicted to games of chance.
Beach vowed he had no intention of trying to mislead anyone – suggesting that confusing the “gaming” he was promoting to the kind of “gaming” one might read about in a Field and Stream Magazine had never entered his mind.
Senator Beach then extolled the virtues of casino gambling, indicating it would give state tax revenue a giant boost, generate new public safety, provide world-class entertainment, revitalize downtown Atlanta, and bolster higher education in Georgia.
Echoes of a similar proposition long ago
In her Georgia Insight newsletter Sue Ella Deadwyler reports, “Destination Resorts (a rather innocuous, harmless term for a destructive industry) may operate 24 hours, 365 days of the year… The licensees for the first locale must be able to invest $2 billion into the project, include a hotel with 1,000 guest rooms, and be near a convention center district within the same county.”
It all sounds glamorous and glitzy and alluring to hear the proponents of the legislation talk, but it also sounds eerily like the words of the deceiver in the Garden of Eden, “For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
It sounded good, but it led down a path to certain shame and expulsion from paradise.
Mike Griffin, Georgia Baptist Mission Board Public Affairs representative at the Capitol, spoke to the Senate Committee and said, “The Georgia Baptist Convention is consistent in registering its opposition to all forms of gambling legislation. Georgia Baptist Convention messengers went on record again in 2015, as they have done 21 times since 1993, opposing gambling in our state.
“The Convention has frequently stated its opposition to the gambling industry, and the devastating affects of gambling upon the moral and economic life of our nation.”
Griffin continued, “We believe that creating jobs and raising funds for education is a bad rationale for attempting to legalize immoral behavior in our state. When are we going to realize that this kind of logic could justify any sin, if it is perceived as a means for creating jobs and raising funds for education? Money cannot always be the bottom-line in legalizing vices in society.
“Think about the costs already on our society by tolerating strip clubs and the proliferation of pornography. Statistics show that human sex trafficking is increased in the locations around these clubs. Estimates are that it takes as much as $80,000 to $100,000 a year to rehabilitate just one of these children rescued from this industry.”
Effects on children
“The state of Georgia recently passed legislation, called the ‘Safe Harbor for Sexually Exploited Children Fund.’ This action reinforces my point that we are failing to see the cause and effect of these kinds of social ills on our children,” Griffin continued.
“Jesus himself said, ‘It would be better that a millstone be tied around someone’s neck and they be cast into the depths of the sea, than to cause one of these little ones to stumble’! Just one!
“Surely there is no one here today who thinks the sex-trafficking industry will be diminished in any way by bringing casinos into our state. I declare to you that it will be just the opposite!
“I implore you to not allow the same excuse that was used by Pilate in condemning the Lord Jesus to the cross. Pilate knew what he was doing was wrong, but condescended to the political pressure to take the easy way out! He decided to let the people decide!”
Griffin concluded by saying, “These are some of the reasons we urge this committee to have the moral courage to oppose the efforts by representatives of the lucrative gambling industry, who unashamedly seek to exert their influence in the political process with the proceeds of their nefarious profits.
Two definitions of three levels of gambling
J. Robert White, executive director of the Georgia Baptist Mission Board, also addressed the Senate Committee and responded to remarks that had been made about the three levels of casinos. It was explained the first level is the “Tribal Level” (the casinos on Indian reservations). The second level is casinos with slots only; and the third level is casinos with all kinds of gambling venues – slots, roulette, blackjack, poker, etc.
White said, “Let me tell you what the three levels of gambling are – devastating, very devastating, and extremely devastating.”
The GBMB executive director stated, “If you propose to do it right you need to include in the legislation what it will cost to provide extra law enforcement protection, counseling, and care for gambling addicts and the devastation it will cause for their families. As a pastor I have seen countless homes absolutely destroyed by the destructive consequences of gambling.”
Georgia Baptists would have been proud of the bold and courageous way White and Griffin represented them at this Senate hearing. Georgia Baptists can also do their part by calling their representatives and senators to voice concern over the destructive and demoralizing impact gambling could have on our state.