Exposing the Dark Side of Gambling Addiction

Public Statement of Missouri Religious Leaders Regarding Expansion of State-Sponsored Gambling

April 23, 2002

(To be presented at a news conference,
Missouri State Capitol, Jefferson City)

As leaders of congregations across Missouri, we assemble to express our objection to the current legislative proposals to significantly expand our state's dependence on legalized gambling.

In our judgment, such a course is profoundly unwise as public policy, and morally indefensible in its implication of state encouragement for citizens to divert personal income, often needed for basic family support in the hope of long-odds windfall gains.

No significant studies on the cost of gambling in Missouri have been undertaken as recommended by the U.S. Gambling Impact Study Commission's findings (1999). Instead, we make public policy decisions based only on the revenue flowing to the state and local government units. Absent from consideration are the losses to other businesses, the drain of Missouri money to out-of-state casino owners, the financial devastation which results from uncontrolled addictive gambling, the lost time and productivity of Missouri workers and the thousands of Missouri youth being drawn into compulsive gambling habits. Multiple studies from other states, from economists and from social scientists conclude that such costs in fact exceed the highly touted revenue.

In addition to measurable indicators, great stress and pain for individuals and families result over and over again in marital tension, career destruction, bankruptcy and all manner of personal disintegration and tragedy. As religious leaders, we know these stories all too well.

The present legislative momentum toward the expansion of gambling includes the start of race-track betting, Quick Draw Keno in 1200 restaurants and bars throughout the state and removal of the very wise $500 loss limit in casinos. It is not worthy of our state to attempt to address its public financial strains by enticing its citizens to increase their personal financial risks.

For 171 years, Missouri has survived periods of economic difficulty and prospered in times of economic gain without recourse to legalized gambling. For the past 10 years, we have been abandoning this strong tradition, first with the promise of highly regulated riverboat casinos that would only operate on two-hour cruises and now with virtually land-based casinos.

We respectfully charge those in Missouri government to carefully revisit our state's motto: "The welfare of the people shall be the supreme law," and consider carefully the consequences of the actions being contemplated.