NC Cherokees and New Casino: Gambling and What the Bible Has to Say About It

One of the most trusted men in America once expressed the way he saw the danger of gambling to our nation. In the program, "The Dice are Loaded," Walter Cronkite indicated that the collapse of moral resistance against gambling is among the worst things that could happen in the United States. Cronkite argued that he believed it is the destruction of "who we are as Americans." [1]

Those words came to mind this week when I read the news stories about the Eastern Band of Cherokee officially breaking ground for their second casino near Murphy, North Carolina.

The new casino will be hailed as Harrah's Cherokee Valley River Casino & Hotel. It will have all the bells and whistles of a full-fledged Las Vegas style casino, featuring hundreds of slot machines and dozens of table games.

Gambling continues to threaten to swallow up the Tar Heel state. Its proponents are constantly pushing North Carolina lawmakers to loosen its resistance to the industry. The first casino in Cherokee opened in November of 1997, largely forced upon the state by the federal courts. Then in 2005, North Carolina enacted a state-operated lottery. In 2011, Governor Beverly Perdue amended the compact with the Cherokee to allow for Class III gaming (Las Vegas style) and add two more casinos on reservation lands. All the while, the state has been back and forth with Video Poker and Sweepstakes Parlors, eventually deciding to outlaw them. But the push never stops for more, more, more…to bring back Sweepstakes and now to strike a new compact with the Catawba Indians for another casino in Kings Mountain.

Some will say, "Well, I don't see what the big deal is as long as you gamble in moderation – as long as you don't waste your living its harmless entertainment. Besides you can't demonstrate one passage in the entire Bible that says, "Thou shalt not play at the roulette table." And you know what? They are absolutely correct. But neither can you demonstrate a single passage in Scripture that says, "Thou shalt not look at pornography." Nevertheless, the Bible often discusses the sin of lust and admonishes people not to do anything that would facilitate that pernicious desire. In like manner, the Bible also talks frequently about the sin of covetousness – an inordinate desire for money, property, or something that belongs to someone else. Now anyone not making the connection between lust and pornography is not likely to make the connection between covetousness and gambling, but that is what gambling is – greed, avarice, an inordinate desire for something for nothing, the desire to take something from my neighbor without due compensation, the get rich quick scam.

Albert Mohler, President of Southern Baptist Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, has written:

"The Bible is clear on this issue. The entire enterprise of gambling is opposed to the moral worldview revealed in God's Word. The basic impulse behind gambling is greed – a basic sin that is the father of many other evils. Scripture repeatedly addresses greed, covetousness, avarice as a sin against God, and often with graphic warning of the destruction that is greed's result. The burning desire for earthly riches leads to frustration and spiritual death." [2]

The Bible says, "People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil." (I Timothy 6:9-10).

But facilitation of the spirit of greed is only one aspect of the insidious practice of gaming. There are others such as the way it violates Jesus' command to love one's neighbor. Gambling is predicated on the losses and the pain of my neighbor. Moreover, the ramifications of gaming for many of my neighbors can be profoundly negative. Families touched with gambling addictions are at great risk for serious problems such as divorce, bankruptcy, domestic violence, crime, suicide, child abuse, etc.

Jesus commanded, "Love your neighbor as yourself" (Mark 12:31).

Gambling also preys on the most vulnerable among us, especially the poor. Palash Ghous in the International Business Times has rightly contended, "Playing the lottery is practically a religion among poor people in the United States. It is yet another corrosive addiction that preys upon the greed and hopeless dreams of those trapped in poverty." [3] Indeed it does. And it is nothing less than immoral when the state via state-sponsored gambling puts this stumbling block in the way of its own citizens. The Scripture commands us to watch out for the poor and issues strong warnings against preying upon their plight.

The prophet Isaiah admonished, "The Lord takes his place in court and stands to judge the people. The Lord presents his case against the older leaders and other leaders of his people: 'You have burned the vineyard. Your houses are full of what you took from the poor. What gives you the right to crush my people and grind the faces of the poor into the dirt?' The Lord all powerful says this." (Isaiah 3:13-15).

There are still other reasons why gambling is sinful activity. God commands that we work – that we be industrious. Gambling portends something for nothing. It undermines the work ethic, making little of the virtue of hard work and diligence.

The writer of Proverbs writes, "Those who work their land will have plenty of food, but the one who chases empty dreams is not wise" (Proverbs 12:11).

Gambling is bad stewardship, the throwing of money to chance, completely unlike the calculated risks that may come with certain business investments. It can be the worst use of one's necessary resources with an almost certain negative return – one that also supports a predatory and exploitive industry.

Jesus taught in the parable of the talents that we are accountable to God for the way we invest the resources of life He gives us (Matthew 25:14-30).

Yet, perhaps the most egregious aspect of gambling is its supplanting of faith in an Almighty God with faith in the so-called Almighty Dollar. The Bible teaches God is our great provider and we must be content with His provision. When we engage in the practice of gaming we're showing a lack of faith in Him and even dissatisfaction with the material blessings His providence has allocated.

The writer of Hebrews argues, "Keep your lives free from the love of money, and be satisfied with what you have. God has said, 'I will never leave you; I will never forget you.'"
(Hebrews 13:5).

Jesus asked, "What shall it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses his own soul?" (Mark 8:36). May I suggest there is no greater reason for the renewal of a strong moral opposition to gambling in our churches and the culture at large? Because it is evil to the core, it begets more evil and more…and more…and more… until the individual…until our very culture in which we live…loses its own soul…until we lose exactly what Walter Cronkite said we could lose…who we are as good and decent Americans.

Dr. Mark Creech is executive director of the Raleigh-based Christian Action League of North Carolina, Inc. He also serves as president of the American Council on Alcohol Problems.

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