Slot machines encourage the worst in our society

October 20, 2008|By THE REV. DENNIS WHITMORE

For years, I have pondered the debate on slots, and gambling in general. A friend heard former Gov. Robert Ehrlich on his Baltimore radio show exclaim, "Where is that pastor from Laurel who so adamantly opposed slots?" Since I pastored in Laurel and was a leading opponent, maybe he meant me. I don't know. Nice to be missed. Glad he found work.

I've been reflecting on this. Some readily dismiss a pastor's view because religious leaders typically oppose stuff -- especially if it's fun. But there are some things that are actually traps disguised as "fun." And since there are few real leaders holding the positions of leadership in government, the best they can do is come up with superficial solutions, which defy wisdom.

"Is there anything of which it may be said, 'See, this is new'? It has already been in ancient times before us. There is no remembrance of former things, nor will there be any remembrance of things that are to come by those who will come after"


-- Ecclesiastes 1:10-11.

Maryland is proposing legalized gambling (slots) again, apparently forgetting that we've been there and done that. Why is slots a bad idea -- especially with the promise of millions of dollars that will just simply come in without draining other segments of the economy to do so?

To make that kind of money requires an extensive and rather regular customer base. How many millionaires do you suppose play the lottery or slots; how many earned their wealth that way? Earned. That's the problem.

Gambling makes money by promising big payouts of unearned money. Greed is the compelling force behind it. Some say it's "fun" to play. Greed does give one a rush of sorts; you're playing to beat the house that's trying to exploit you. So you play on to exploit it. They own the game and set the rules, but greed entices you to try "just one more time."

Funding a state government with gambling revenue is more than just morally wrong. It is wrong in principle. Greed as a motivator draws upon our base human nature. It is the self-serving, self-centered part of us that will exploit another if the perceived profit is high enough. We're born selfish.

As children, we have to learn respect for others; to put the needs of others above our own. We learn to sacrifice self for the good of all. We learn to live in the community by expanding the scope of our concern to include the "us" that makes a community a "common unity" of people. Gambling encourages me-mindedness.

Slots and lotteries are small-scale revenue generators that run on the same fuel as the Wall Street firms that drove our national economy into the tank: The few exploiting the many for the sake of themselves. That's how greed works -- that's why greed works, for awhile.

"A man with an evil eye hastens after riches, and does not consider that poverty will come upon him"

-- Proverbs 28:22.

How ironic is it that the state wants to encourage the baser nature of its people to pay its bills?

Reminds me of the ancient method of hunting wolves. The frozen blood of an animal encased the blade of a spear like a popsicle in the snow. As the wolf would lick the blood, the taste would arouse its appetite to lick down to the blade. Finally, having cut its own tongue, the wolf tastes warm blood and keeps at it with a vengeance, until it bleeds to death.

As Wall Street has done for the nation, so slots will do for the state. Both are driven by the same thing: Greed for vast quantities of easy money. But it comes on the end of a spear.

The author is the pastor of a church in the Clear Spring area.

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