Opposition to legalized gambling and state lotteries seems to be a lost cause among Christian churches.
In his on-line newsletter Sightings (Feb. 18), church historian Martin E. Marty comes to this conclusion after watching the results of the gubernatorial inaugurations in Southern, Bible Belt states. Governors who waged pro-lottery campaigns gained decisive victories over anti-gambling forces. Marty writes that “Many conservative Protestants must have switched rather than fight. There are enough of them in the states in question — North and South Carolina, Alabama, and Tennessee — to defeat pro-lottery measures if these evangelical voters believed enough in and worked enough for their cause. They evidently don’t.”
Marty adds that mainstream Protestants who are numerous in the South also battled the pro-gambling interests. But Christians may have been swayed by the fact that gambling proceeds help support public education, and that politicians who do not like to tax everyone welcome relief and support from gambling. The voice of religious groups is further muffled when gambling interests in surrounding states attract parishioners, thus depleting their own coffers.
Religious anti-gambling activists still point to the social disasters, the increase in poverty, the family strife, the problems of addiction, the criminal and business interests that surround the gambling industry. “But antigambling is going the way of churchly causes early in this century, antiliquor and anti-No-Fault divorce,” Marty concludes.