It began in Pennsylvania in August of 1971, much as it did in other states. Not that legalized gambling, both endorsed and enabled by the Commonwealth, was an easy pill to swallow back then; I can still remember the public outrage, and the resistance from the church community. Within a short time, though, even we conservative Pennsylvanians felt comfortable occasionally risking a few dollars on the slight chance of hitting it big.
But the humble beginnings of the PA Lottery cannot compare to the huge leap we are about to take in the Keystone State. The 14 gambling halls proposed, and the many I can assure will follow, stand ready to rip through our communities like an atomic blast. More like an epidemic of cancer, really; the pain and suffering will spread slowly, metastasizing, claiming its victims before they can detect the poison within. The question is, this time: where is the church?
We must realize, by now. that faith-based organizations will bear the lion's share of responsibility for "cleaning up" after this pending outbreak of casino gambling. Our soup kitchens, homeless shelters, and other church outreach efforts will be stretched beyond their limits, trying to keep up with the human cost of "Rendell's Folly." So why are we silent now, when we can still have a voice? And are we truly prepared for what lies ahead--the damage about to be done to our families, our communities--even within our own congregations?
In closing, allow me to offer this challenge to our local, state, and federal lawmakers--the people we choose to build and repair our roads, spend our money wisely, and help keep us safe. What's most disturbing about government-sanctioned and -promoted gambling to me, is its inherent breach of the public trust. It is unconscionable that elected and appointed officials who clearly understand the dangers associated with this activity--and you know that you do--would, regardless, go ahead and permit this enemy to enter the gates. You're already aware that gambling is a losing hand for the people you serve. Only you can choose to fold, before the life we love in our commonwealth...goes bust.