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Glitz, Glamour and Gambling

Masked in alternative names, gambling is a prevalent activity of children and teens today. Christian parents need to be aware of the threat Internet gambling poses to their children.


On any given Saturday afternoon, sports programming fills the airwaves. From football to baseball, from golf to hockey, the networks are saturated with competitive action. Recently, a new game entered the television market. The game has skyrocketed in popularity, especially among young people. And it's not even a sport. While being marketed as glamorous, exciting and lucrative, the risk is significant and the consequences negative. The new game in town is poker, and it comes with a number of variations to peak interest—Texas Hold'em, Omaha Hi/Lo, Seven Card Stud—and the grand champion of all, the World Series of Poker.

Glitz, Glamour and Gambling

Poker itself is not new, nor is gambling, but the way it is being packaged on television, complete with camera angles and commentary, is luring many to the card tables and at increasingly younger ages. In today's world, packaging is everything. Instead of its rightful category—gambling—poker is being classified as a "sport" and is now called "gaming."

The connotation of the word lessens its unsavory nature and also the amount of risk involved, at least in the mind's eye. The underlying message suggests this is another activity of skill. With practice and hard work your skill level increases and the payoff in the end may very well be great wealth. Combine that notion with a focus on the "big winners" and the world of poker seems like yours for the taking.

This new packaging, however, belies the same end result—millions of losers and billions of dollars lost, or at least rerouted, from the pockets and bank accounts of average income citizens, into the bank accounts of a few increasingly wealthy casino owners. The best example is the state of Nevada which legalized gambling in 1931. Las Vegas remains the glitziest showplace for the gambling industry. More than 40 million visit Las Vegas, Reno, and Tahoe each year hoping to cash in. The reality is that a vast majority go home much lighter in the pocketbook.

The glitz and glamour is nothing more than a smokescreen feeding the lie that gambling is harmless, incredibly entertaining and ultimately of no serious consequence. Minimized is the reality that gambling destroys marriages, motivates suicide, undermines the financial security of families, and creates many other serious social issues. Underneath is a culture and an activity based on greed (the lure of easy money), the exploitation of human weakness (addictive behaviour) and the fruit it produces is rotten to the core.

Consider the following: When the state of Nevada is compared to the other 48 states that have legalized gambling it ranks first in suicide, divorce, homicide against women, and high school drop-outs. It ranks third in bankruptcies and abortion, fourth in rape, out of wedlock births, and alcohol related deaths. It ranks in the top one-third of the nation in child abuse and one-tenth of all southern Nevadans are alcoholics. As for the moral climate, the Yellow Pages in Las Vegas list 136 pages of advertisements for prostitution. George magazine named Las Vegas "one of the ten most corrupt cities in America" ("Gambling Fever," Dr. Dobson's Newsletter: January, 1999).

This devastation is largely ignored by the mainstream media. Featured instead are exciting tournaments with the big winner, or a full page article about the guy who's making millions on the gambling circuit. Ignored are the stories of the loser, ridden with debt, desperately attempting to win back his losses, losing his wife, his children, his family home and his career in the process. For some, suicide becomes a way out of the red ink.

Teaching [children] a biblical perspective on this matter is crucial.

Most susceptible are easy to influence children and young people. In fact studies already indicate young people are gambling more than ever before, and as early as the age of ten. Gambling is now more prevalent in teen culture than smoking, drinking or drugs according to a survey by McGill University in Montreal. The survey of Montreal students showed that 30 percent of grade 7 students gamble at least once a week, and adolescents are two to four times more likely than adults to become problem gamblers.

Research also indicates that children are more likely than adults to borrow money to finance gambling, and less likely to pay it back. Teenage pathological gamblers suffer from lower grades, increased delinquency and criminal activities and also display higher rates of depression and attempted suicide than their peers.

Once confined to areas restricted to adults, children today do not have to look far to find a game in progress. The internet is full of opportunities.

Banner ads and pop-ups for casinos appear often on sites popular with teens and younger children. Sports betting sites announce weekly winners and offer prizes. Free gambling tempts with high returns to lure the susceptible into the real money sites which are programmed to reduce the amount and probability of winning.

Other sites have grooming activities to make gambling attractive and familiar. Neopets.com is popular with pre-teens in Canada. This site allows visitors to create pets and collect neopoints to spend on them. The game offers a section called luck/chance games where kids can play gambling-based games such as Neopoker, Jub Jub blackjack, and Diceroo. The video game market is not far behind reinforcing the notion that practice is the road to success. In regular video games, strategy affects your outcome and skill helps you win. Children are prone to transfer this attitude toward gambling.

The three predominant reasons adolescents participate in gambling is for excitement, enjoyment, and to win money. Other reasons include peer pressure, to relieve boredom, or to mask depression. One key consequence of this activity is that it undermines the work ethic. It is based on the premise of something for nothing—a notion that sanctions idleness rather than industriousness; slothfulness instead of initiative.

Glitz, Glamour and Gambling

Christian parents need to be aware of this threat and be proactive with their children. Modeling appropriate behaviour and keeping track of our children's activities are important. Teaching them a biblical perspective on this matter is crucial. A summary by Kirby Anderson examines this issue thoroughly. He states:

"Even though the Bible does not directly address gambling, we can derive a number of principles from Scripture. "First, gambling breeds a form of covetousness. The Tenth Commandment admonishes us not to covet. Coveting, greed, and selfishness are the base emotions that entice us to gamble. I believe Christians should be concerned about gambling if for no other reason than the effect it has on the weaker brother and how it will affect the compulsive gambler. State-sponsored gambling makes it harder for the compulsive gambler to reform. Legalized gambling becomes an institutionalized form of greed.
"Second, gambling destroys the work ethic. Two key biblical passages deal with the work ethic. In Colossians 3:23-24, the Apostle Paul says, 'Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward.
"It is the Lord Christ you are serving.' And in 2 Thessalonians 3:7, 10, he says, 'For you yourselves know how you ought to follow our example … . For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: If a man will not work, he shall not eat.' The Twentieth Century Fund research group commented, 'Gambling's get-rich-quick appeal appears to mock capitalism's core values: disciplined work habits, thrift, prudence, adherence to routine, and the relationship between effort and reward.' These core values of the work ethic are all part of the free enterprise system and are part of the Christian life. Gambling corrupts these values and replaces them with greed and selfishness. Rather than depending upon hard work, gamblers depend instead upon luck and chance.
"Third, gambling destroys families. Gambling is a major cause of family neglect. Many of the social costs associated with gambling come from its mindset. As people get caught up in a gambling frenzy, they begin to neglect their families. Money spent on lottery tickets or at horse tracks is frequently not risk capital but is income that should be spent on family needs. In 1 Timothy 5:8, Paul says that a person who refuses to care for his family is worse than an infidel. Parents must provide for their children (2 Corinthians 12:14) and eat the bread of their labors (2 Thessalonians 3:12). When gambling is legalized it tempts people to neglect their God-mandated responsibility to care for their families, and these families often end up on welfare.
"Fourth, gambling is a form of state-sponsored greed. We read in Romans 13 that government is to be a minister of God. Government should provide order in society and promote public virtue. Legalized gambling undercuts government's role and subverts the moral fabric of society through greed and selfishness promoted by a state-sponsored vice.
"Gambling is bad social policy; it is bad economic policy; and it is bad governmental policy. Moreover, it undermines the moral foundations of society and invites corruption in government. As Christians, I believe we must stand against society's attempts to legalize gambling."

In our culture we've seen that the legalization of a certain form of behaviour or action does not make it good or right. Our government has legalized gambling and it has been a fact of life in North America for many years. Yet the threat is growing, and we need to make sure that other issues of the day such as homosexual marriage do not demand so much of our attention that an old threat takes hold and destroys the future lives of our children.

Endnotes

Gaming in Canada National Council of Welfare,

Are Kids Addicted to Gambling? You Can Bet On It, Jay Teitel

Gambling, Webaware

Gambling, Kirby Anderson

Gambling Fever, Dr. Dobson's Newsletter, January 1999

Gambling: Dirty Little Secrets, April 1999

Focus on the Family Position Statement on Gambling March 12, 2004

Gambling's Impact on Families, Ronald A. Reno

Originally published in Christian Renewal, October 12, 2005.

 

 
 
 
 

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