From the Worldwide Faith News archives

Church agency supports "Gambling Impact" Act

Date 22 May 1996 10:55:35

          Here is a press release from the UCC Office of Communication
          on a resolution passed by the UCC's social justice agency
          supporting the "Gambling Impact" Act before Congress.

May 22, 1996
Office of Communication
United Church of Christ
Nancy M. Erikson, press contact
(216) 736-2200

On the World Wide Web:

National church agency calls on government
to study the impact of gambling in America

      CLEVELAND -- Gambling in America is big business.
      Now a national church agency -- citing gambling's
connections to "addiction, despair, alienation and even suicide"
-- wants to know just how big a business gambling is and what
effect it has on society.
      The "Gambling Impact and Policy Commission Act" currently
before Congress, which calls for a national commission to study
the impact of gambling in America, drew support in a May 18
resolution from the board of directors of the Office for Church
in Society, a national agency of the United Church of Christ.
      Besides voicing support for the proposed study, the
resolution will serve as an interim policy for the church
agency, which is still examining gambling-related issues.  Such
a U.S. study could inform positions the office may take on
gambling in the future, said Valerie Russell, executive director
of the Office for Church and Society.  In issuing the resolution
at a semi-annual meeting in Cleveland, the office's board --
composed of 18 UCC clergy and lay members -- was speaking to but
not for the denomination's 1.5 million members and more than
6,100 local churches.
      The resolution raises four moral objections to state-
sponsored gambling:
      -- It is an improper function of government to encourage
people to gamble.
      -- Gambling revenue is a regressive form of taxation,
drawing money disproportionately from the poor.

      -- Addiction to gambling is a serious problem, and the
gambling industry feeds on and encourages this addiction,
drawing a disproportionate share of revenue from gambling

      -- Because of enormous revenue involved, the possibilities
for corruption are extremely serious. Contributions to
politicians seriously affect the political process and make it
difficult for legislators to control the expansion of gambling.

      Statistics show that gambling has grown at phenomenal
rates.  For example, 42 states have lotteries which, in 1994
alone, took in $34 billion.  Casinos operate in 23 states, and
that number is growing.  Between 1984 and 1994, the annual
amount bet on legalized gambling jumped by more than 200
percent, from $147 billion to $482 billion.
      While proponents of gambling argue it is a source of tax
revenue and creates jobs, opponents of gambling say it is hard
to ignore that as gambling has grown, so have the social
problems associated with gambling.  Atlantic City, as it
introduced casinos, became a case study.  It went from 50th in
the nation in per capita crime to number one.  It had the
nation?s highest rate of homelessness in 1987 and an
unemployment rate twice the state average in 1993.  Small
businesses dropped by one quarter, retail businesses dropped by
one third, and the number of restaurants in the city dropped
from 243 to 146 in the first 10 years of casino gambling.
      Gambling addiction appears to be one of the most serious
social problems associated with gambling, and researchers now
call gambling the fastest growing teenage addiction, twice the
adult rate.
      Also, the possibilities for organized crime to penetrate
casino operations and/or unions remains high, and the related
organized crime activities -- loan sharking, drugs, prostitution
-- are inevitable.
      "Gambling does not offer a theology of hope but a
pathology of hope," the resolution says.  "Gambling can lead one
to a false doctrine of salvation, with each toss of the coin or
the dice bringing an announcement of salvation and worth or
damnation and loss of self-worth and esteem.  Gambling too often
brings addiction, despair, alienation and even suicide."
      Like state-sponsored gambling, gambling on Native American
reservations has grown, the resolution says.  It calls for
separate consideration of reservation-sponsored gambling, out of
support for Native American self-determination.  State-sponsored
gambling is properly considered in the larger public arena, it
      The agency will send a copy of the resolution supporting
the study and raising moral objections to state-sponsored
gambling to the U.S. Congress.
      In other business, the Office for Church in Society
directorate passed the following resolutions:

      -- Endorsing the national Stand for Children demonstration
to be held on June 1 at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington,
D.C., and urging local churches to take an action on the issues
raised through the Stand.  The event will be a day of family and
community renewal, celebration and commitment to do more as a
nation to improve the quality of children's lives.

      -- Supporting the separation of church and state as
embodied in the First Amendment and opposing any amendment to
the United States Constitution which weakens the right to the
freedom of religion.  The resolution also opposes two current
proposals to amend the Constitution -- the "Religious Equality"
and the "Religious Liberties" amendments.

      -- Stressing the importance of maintaining a United Church
of Christ presence in Washington, D.C., throughout and following
a restructuring of the denomination's national offices.  The
UCC's General Synod gave restructuring a green light in 1995 and
will consider further details in June 1997. 

      The United Church of Christ, with national offices in
Cleveland, was formed by the 1957 union of the Congregational
Christian Churches and the Evangelical and Reformed Church.  Its
Office for Church and Society studies the gospel and its bearing
on people in society, provides and publishes information on
social issues, and formulates and promotes a program of social
education and action for the United Church of Christ.
                          #     #     #
[EDITORS:  For more information or for the text of any
resolution mentioned in this release, contact Nancy M. Erikson,
UCC Office of Communication, Cleveland, (216) 736-2200.]

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