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My Fear of Sports Gambling

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And he said to them, “Take care! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions.” (Luke 12:15)

Sports Gambling is the next “big” thing to hit the State of Iowa. More than 20 years ago I was very involved in the anti-gambling campaign in Indiana. The challenge then was Off-Track Betting. I was part of a group, including university professors of economics, pastors, business leaders, and politicians who understood the negative impact of gambling on families and the local economy. In a nutshell, gambling money does not stay local, it goes out of state and gambling money does not get reinvested in the local economy. The gambling industry celebrates the crumbs that get handed back to the communities they are economically stripping.

After three years of hard work, and time away from my family, I finally gave up. It happened when I was having lunch with some nice executives from the Kentucky Derby. We had a nice lunch at Strongbow’s Restaurant in Valparaiso, Indiana, and one of the execs leaned over and said, “Scott, you are a nice guy, and I believe you believe in what you are doing, but we are just going to roll over you. We will give you lip service, but your organization isn’t even a blip on our radar.” Sadly, he was absolutely right. Money rules, and promises of tax revenue and other crumbs, will fool the masses. Tax dollars actually diminish because the many families who are economically crippled by gambling lose their income. Further, gambling often has a negative impact on how a community is viewed by other corporations who refuse to invest in a gambling community.

For me, my concern about gambling isn’t that it is some nebulous sin. I believe gambling becomes a sin when it hurts families, and individuals are crippled. I do not believe a group of four playing poker for a few bucks, that everyone can afford to lose, is a sin. My concern is individuals hurt and families crippled by the addiction of gambling. I love sports, and I also believe that all levels of sports have the very real potential of being destroyed by gambling. When athletes, coaches, or referees are found throwing games, sports will go the way of the dinosaur.

Today, no matter how you feel about gambling, please pray for individuals, families, and communities as sports betting takes hold in Iowa, and throughout the country. Help vulnerable people find self-control and commitment to their families, rather than the rush of the gambler’s moment. Ask God to give the churches, nonprofits, and government agencies the creative commitment to find new ways of providing help for those at risk. When one family is broken, our whole community is weakened.