Focus on the Family opposes all forms of legalized gambling for both moral and pragmatic reasons. We believe the net societal effect of our government’s embrace of gambling has been disastrous.
Gambling is driven by and subsists on greed. For this reason, the activity is morally bankrupt from its very foundation. Gambling is also an activity which exploits the vulnerable — the young, the old, and those susceptible to addictive behaviors. Further, gambling entices the financially disadvantaged classes with the unrealistic hope of escape from poverty through instant riches, thus ultimately worsening the plight of our poorest citizens. Also, gambling undermines the work ethic. It is based on the premise of something for nothing, a concept that sanctions idleness rather than industriousness, slothfulness instead of initiative.
The more tangible downsides to gambling are similarly disturbing. Legalized gambling breeds a host of social ills, as has been demonstrated time and time again in areas where gambling has been introduced on a widespread basis.
Legalized gambling creates gambling addicts. An abundance of research and expert testimony demonstrates that as gambling expands, so does the number of those with serious gambling problems. Millions more Americans have developed devastating gambling addictions over the last few years as a direct result of gambling’s rapid proliferation. Further, these newly created addicts are the lifeblood of the industry.
Preliminary research indicates that a third or more of gambling revenues come from problem and pathological gamblers.
Gambling breeds crime. Communities that welcome gambling also welcome an increase in crime. Recent history in communities ranging from Atlantic City to Deadwood, South Dakota, to the Mississippi Gulf Coast indicates that the sheer number of crimes skyrockets in an area once gambling is permitted. Much of this is attributed to the newly created gambling addicts who, in desperation, turn to crime to finance their addiction. Also, legalized gambling makes an attractive target for career criminals. Organized crime has infiltrated numerous legal gambling operations in various states in recent years.
Gambling is an economic negative. Many states and communities embrace gambling as a means to generate additional revenues as well as to inspire economic growth, boost tourism and create jobs. Gambling’s ability to do all of these is either greatly exaggerated or nonexistent.
For instance, gambling often hurts, not helps, existing businesses by siphoning away discretionary dollars that might otherwise have been spent at local shops. Also, the social costs associated with gambling — such as losses due to crime, additional law enforcement costs, gambling addiction treatment costs, and lost work productivity — are staggering, often far exceeding a state or community’s total revenues from gambling.
Legalized gambling devastates families. Authorities in gambling jurisdictions report dramatic increases in divorce, suicide, bankruptcy, and child abuse and domestic violence related to gambling. Research shows that children of gambling addicts experience lower levels of mental health and physical well-being.
Given these and other considerations, it is unconscionable that our government would continue to allow — and even promote — gambling activities. Legalized gambling is ravaging the lives of untold thousands of individuals and families, and contributes substantially to the moral decay of our communities. Therefore, we believe legalized gambling, in all its forms, should and must be vigorously opposed.
Focus on the Family’s founder, Dr. James C. Dobson, served on the National Gambling Impact Study Commission to produce a final report in June of 1999.
Originally published electronically in 2002 by Chad Hills , the research analyst for gambling policy and sexual health for CitizenLink, an affiliate of Focus on the Family.