Gambling and False Gods

casinoDavid Frum reports here on the downward spiral that casinos create for troubled local economies.

Outside of Las Vegas—now home to only 20 percent of the nation’s casino industry—casino gambling has evolved into a downscale business. Affluent and educated people visit casinos less often than poorer people do for the same reasons that they smoke less and drink less and weigh less.

Unfortunately for the casino industry’s growth hopes, downscale America has less money to spend today than it did before 2007…

Casinos that do stay in business yield less to their towns and states. Revenues from Maryland’s first casino, in Perryville, at the northern tip of Chesapeake Bay, have already dropped 30 percent from their peak in 2008, and are expected to decline even more rapidly in future as competitors proliferate.

Cities hoping to cash in on gambling income through taxes end up being disappointed and casinos don’t give local economies a bump either.

The impact of casinos on neighboring property values is “unambiguously negative,” according to the economists at the National Association of Realtors. Casinos don’t encourage non-gaming businesses to open nearby, because the people who most often visit casinos do not wander out to visit other shops and businesses. A casino is not like a movie theater or a sports stadium, offering a time-limited amusement. It is designed to be an all-absorbing environment that does not release its customers until they have exhausted their money.

It’s not just city councils who are gambling on the casinos to fill the void in their coffers.

The gamblers themselves are looking for something to fill the void in their lives. Sadly, a rising number of problem gamblers are the impoverished poor.

Half of casino visitors are over age 50, but casinos market themselves to the over 70 and even over 80 market, to whom gambling offers an escape from boredom and loneliness into a hypnotic zone of rapid-fire electronic stimuli.

When I visited a casino in Detroit the place was full of sad, poor old people. My host explained, “The casinos send busses out to the assisted living places and give the old folks $10.00 worth of chips and discounted rooms in the hotel. A lot of these people are retired car workers–not well off to start with, and the casinos draw them in for what seems a cheap vacation, and they end up gambling away what little savings they have.

Like everything else, there is a spiritual dimension to gambling. While gambling, in itself, is not a sin, it leads to all sorts of sin.

Philosophically, gambling is a sign of a spiritually decadent society. The gambler (whether he is conscious of it or not) does not believe in Providence but in chance. He trust the roll of the dice, the spin of the wheel, the shuffling of the deck. He’s trusting in Lady Luck. The problem gambler does not live in a trusting relationship of faith with a loving God who has a plan for his life. Instead he worships a false god of random chance.

When I visit prison many of the guys are in jail on drugs charges. The only difference between their addiction and the other addictions is that their’s is illegal and they got caught. In my experience the majority of Americans are addicted–at least a little to something: to their career, to their money, to their status, to sex or alcohol or power.

Every addiction is the worship of a false god–one who promises to satisfy, but in the end takes life rather than gives it.

False gods always devour you.

Read Frum’s full article here.