Families First

How much do your state leaders care about families? In South Carolina, Governor David Beasley cares enough to give up $62 million. That's how much South Carolina expected to take in through gambling revenues this year. But Governor Beasley says he doesn't want the money—and the way he's dealing with the state's gambling problem is an example of how Christian politicians can put their faith to work. When Governor Beasley recently unveiled his new budget proposal, the $62 million the state expected to take in from highly-addictive video poker wasn't there. He's treating the money as if it doesn't exist. And Beasley is challenging the legislature to ban all forms of gambling outright.


Beasley ran for office on the theme of putting families first, and he believes that gambling is opposed to that theme. As his press secretary Gary Karr put it, "Gambling violates the covenant the governor wants to have with the people of South Carolina: that he'll help their families—not allow government to encourage what would harm them." The evidence that gambling harms families and communities cannot be disputed. Valerie Lorenz of the Compulsive Gambling Center in Baltimore writes that when a state opens two or more forms of legalized gambling, it can expect up to 3 percent of its population to become compulsive gamblers. And the poor are victimized most. Gambling claims child victims as well: Recent news stories have told of children who died of heat stroke and dehydration because their parents locked them in cars for hours at a time while mom and dad gambled away the family money. And it turns out the states don’t even gain anything from the gambling tragedies they create. Business professor John Kindt of the University of Illinois says that for every $1that gambling revenue brings into a state, residents pay between $3 and $7 in hidden costs, including the cost of crimes gamblers commit to support their habit: passing bad checks, embezzling, dealing drugs, and prostitution. In effect, when the government promotes gambling, it's creating a new batch of criminals—and that's not even counting organized crime, which shows up wherever gambling is legalized. Worst of all, by encouraging people to gamble, the government is encouraging them to turn away from trust in God. Robert Goodman is the author of a book called The Luck Business. In an interview with Ken Myers, host of Mars Hill tapes, Goodman said that "people's ability to hope is one of the most basic qualities that human beings have." It helps them to get through difficult times, to seek better education and jobs. By encouraging people to gamble, Goodman said, the government preys on that ability to hope. Instead of encouraging people to have faith in God's providence, the government offers a false hope: that you can get rich quick. Every Christian in South Carolina ought to get behind Governor Beasley, and every Christian in the country ought to be praying for him, because he’s taking on one of the most powerful lobbies in the country. Gambling interests give millions in campaign contributions. We also ought to be asking our own local politicians to follow Governor Beasley’s lead. Gambling exploits people and it’s immoral for the state to profit from it. That’s why Governor Beasley is giving up $62 million—something politicians don’t often do. And I say, God bless him.


Chuck Colson


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