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New Gambling Studies Highlight Age-Old Problem

Publish date: April 26, 1999

Author: Wayne Jackson

Article description: A recent study reveals the destruction caused by gambling.

According to a recent investigation conducted for the National Gambling Impact Study Commission, some 20 million Americans have, or could develop, a serious gambling problem.

Five million Americans are now classified as “pathological” or problem gamblers (some authorities double this figure), while another 15 million gamblers are in danger of slipping over the pathological edge.

Another shocking element of the report is the fact that more than a million adolescents, ages 12 through 17, are severely addicted to gambling.

Typical of the sort of rationalization common to defenders of vices was the comment of Frank J. Fahrenkopf, Jr., president of the American Gaming Association. He opined that “economic and social benefits of gaming [gambling] far outweigh the costs to society.” In other words, who cares about the problems of 15 million Americans, so long as the rest of our nation can prosper from their weakness!

The gambling vice costs our nation billions of dollars each year. In 1997, lotteries alone took $16 billion from ordinary people who had the illusive dream that they were going to “strike it rich.” But the lottery, which has only been around since 1963, has turned out to be a nightmare!

There are enormous expenses associated with gambling – divorces, court and jail costs, lost wages, bankruptcies, etc. Some attempt to minimize the gambling problem by asserting that, after all, alcohol abuse costs the nation $166 billion. Hence, gambling is a rather minor annoyance? That’s like suggesting that since burglary is not as bad as murder, society ought to ignore it.

From the dusty streets of ancient Babylon, to the glittering Las Vegas strip, gambling lust has plagued humanity across the centuries. Virtually every civilization has acknowledged gambling as a practice damaging to the individual and to society at large.

George Washington said: “Gambling is the child of avarice, the brother of iniquity, and the father of mischief.” Benjamin Franklin advised: “Keep flax from fire, and youth from gaming.”

One writer, who has made a special study of the issue, suggests that gambling involves “the willingness to take a risk” motivated by a twisted “desire to get something for nothing….It is parasitic, producing no personal growth, achieving no social good. Even the strongest advocates of gambling agree that gambling is a non-productive human activity” (David McKenna, “Gambling: Parasite on Public Morals,” Christianity Today, June 8, 1973).

Some authorities suggest that, psychologically speaking, the gambling “urge” involves the perversion of three basic desires: 1) the desire for gain; 2) a lust for excitement; 3) the instinct of combativeness.

There is something in the very nature of gambling that tends toward addiction: 1) The winner becomes eager for larger wins; 2) The loser becomes desperate to recoup his loses.

I personally know Christians who have been caught up in the gambling mania. While pursuing the get-rich-quick dream, they have “pierced themselves through with many sorrows” (1 Timothy 6:10). Utility bills go begging, house payments are in arrears, sometimes theft is resorted to, and lying becomes habitual.

Many insist gambling is simply a harmless, “recreational” release, like fishing or golfing, but there is a reason why gambling is classified as a “vi


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