This blog is the combined effort of four senior pastors of different churches. Their desire is to point you toward living a God-centered, gospel-focused, Christian life.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Gambling in Washington: An Open Letter to My City Council

As someone who watched many Westerns as a boy, I assumed it was common knowledge that alcohol and gambling don't mix well:

In fact, this was also a widely understood reality in the early-17th Century, if this painting by Adriaen Brouwer is any guide:

But it is a reality that many lawmakers, including the majority of our state's legislatures, are either ignorant of or choose to ignore.  And because of a bill passed in 2009, throughout the state of Illinois communities are allowing video gambling in establishments that already have a liquor license.  

On July 2, the City of Washington is voting on amending an ordinance that bans gambling in our city.  Below is a letter to council members voicing my opposition to a form of gambling that preys upon the weak. After the letter are a list of our city council members and their email addresses.  If you choose to contact them, please address them with the courtesy and respect they deserve as our leaders.


An Open Letter to the Washington City Council,

I am writing this letter to urge you not to raise revenues for our community by exploiting its weakest members.

On July 2, you are voting on an ordinance which, if passed, will legalize gambling in our community.  There are clear moral and pragmatic reasons for you to oppose such a measure. 

First, gambling costs a community more than the revenue it promises.  According to John Kindt, for every dollar of revenue gambling brings in, taxpayers spend three dollars in “increased criminal justice costs, social welfare expenses, regulatory costs, and increased infrastructure expenditures.”

Second, gambling harms the weakest members of our community.  The entire gambling industry relies upon promising an opportunity for those who are in greatest need.  It is targeted toward the poor and depends upon them—especially those who are ethnic minorities—participating in it disproportionately.  As the Chicago Reporter noted in 2007, an analysis of lottery records since 1997 shows that the poorest zip codes generate the most lottery revenue.  The article observed that in Chicago, “the South Side's 60619 ZIP code area, lottery players spent more than $23 million on lottery tickets in fiscal year 2002, more than any other ZIP code in the state.” If this ordinance is passed, know this: revenues will be gained on the backs of those in society we should be striving to protect.

Third, electronic gambling represents an especially predatory form of gambling.  Dr. Natasha Schull, a professor at MIT, has written several excellent articles on electronic gambling machines.  She notes that these machines are “calibrated to increase a gambler's ‘time on device’  and to encourage ‘play to extinction,’ which is industry jargon for playing until all your money is gone.”  Inside the machines “complicated algorithms perform a high-tech version of ‘loading the dice’—deceptions no self-respecting casino would ever allow in table gambling.”  Schull observes that these machines “are designed to exploit aspects of human psychology, and they do it well. In the eyes of the gaming industry, this may look like success, but it comes at great expense for gamblers.”

Why are communities throughout Illinois suddenly presented with this choice?  It’s not because our lawmakers have realized that video gambling is an ethical and practical good for our community.  According to the Chicago Tribune (3/28/12), lobbyists for the gambling industry deluded lawmakers into believing this would prove to be a tool to help dig our way out of our budget deficit.

It won’t.  Gambling revenues never come without exacting more than they give.  And even if they were a lucrative source of income for a community, I would still ask that you not pay my bills by exploiting the weak.

Thank you for your service to our community,

Dr. Daniel J. Bennett
Senior Pastor, Bethany Community Church


For those of you who live in Washington, please contact your city council member and politely express your desire for them to oppose this measure.  

The contact info of your city council member can be found below or here: (click on "City Government" link).

Gary W. Manier:

Ward I:
Bob Brucks:

Ward II:
Todd Clanin:

Ward III:
Dave Dingledine:

Ward IV:
Gene Schneider:

A map indicating your ward can also be found here: (select the "maps" link).Here is a really bad copy of a map that indicates which ward you live in (light blue is Ward I, light green is Ward II, dark green is Ward III, and brownish color is Ward IV).   



  1. Thanks Daniel. This is very good.

  2. "It is not necessary, I am sure, for me to attempt to portray the robbery of the poor and the widespread corruption of public and private morals which are the necessary incidents of these lottery schemes." President Benjamin Harrison July 29, 1890

    At least three times in US history, we have attempted to pay our bills painlessly by means of gambling schemes. The first two times, gambling was eventually recognized for what it truly is--the rotting of the soul, the foul teaching that wealth is by chance not work and investment, and the deliberate impoverishment of millions. We have been on the third trip down Gambling Lane for more than 30 years. I sometimes wonder, although I do not advocate it, if all gambling would be legalized, we might not get sick of it sooner and see its pernicious effects more starkly.

    The very fact that our lawmakers attempt to "limit" gambling means that they know it is evil. They think that they can balance the benefits and harms of sin. But the "benefits" are only apparent, while the harms are real. The serpent still whispers, "You shall not surely die." And we continue to believe it.

  3. Very well presented truths! I wonder if the real driving forces ( who also try to convince people that it will increase revenues without increasing taxes) are the lottery owners!

  4. Here is a sign that we might be getting sick on gambling:

  5. @Scott: That is a great quote by Harrison.