NO to Casinos in Massachusetts

NO To Casinos in Massachusetts - VOTE YES ON BALLOT QUESTION 3

How would you feel if the Massachusetts Gaming Commission decided to build a casino on Webster Lake? Honestly, how many of you would be in favor of this? I have heard numerous people say, “What’s wrong with building casinos in Massachusetts, BUT not in MY town!” If you enjoy gambling and going to the casinos, why wouldn’t you want one in your own town? Is it because we know that casinos change everything about the region in which they enter? Is it because we know that crime will increase, small businesses will suffer and that the social fabric of the local community will dangerously change?

This past Tuesday afternoon 80 Faith leaders - Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Mainline Protestant, Evangelical, Pentecostal, Jewish and Muslim - from around Massachusetts gathered in the historic Old South Church in Boston to make a statement in opposition to Casino Construction in the Commonwealth. We asked all Massachusetts residents to consider VOTING YES TO BALLOT QUESTION #3 – the ballot question “Expanding Prohibitions on Gaming” - in the November 4th elections.

On behalf of Metropolitan Methodios, I was one of eight faith leaders who spoke to the media, and I focused simply on the fact that our Christian faith is all about LOVE - love for God and love for our neighbor. And if we are trying to live lives of love, we have to realize that when we expand gambling and casinos in this commonwealth, we are not thinking about the welfare of our neighbor. The entire gaming industry represents the exact opposite of love. The passion for exciting gambling entertainment leads us to ignore the fact that we have to win at the expense of others. When we favor casinos, we’re not interested in hearing statistics about how 70% of casino revenues rely on gambling addictions. When we favor casinos, we don’t want to hear how the poor and lower economic classes are affected the most from gambling. When we favor casinos, we don’t want to hear stories about families destroyed and lives ruined from gambling. Can we honestly say we are thinking of our neighbor when we say, “I definitely don’t want the casino in MY town, but if it’s built in some other city of Massachusetts 60 miles away, then I don’t have a problem with it.” The tempting thrill of gambling blinds us to our neighbor!

Several couple weeks ago in Church, we heard Jesus proclaim the Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you want to them to do unto you.” Treat others as you want to be treated. Ultimately, our entire Christian message can be summed up in the words, “Love one another as God loves you.” Love should be the motivating factor for each and every Christian. Yet, what does love have to do with gambling? Although we may not have many clear teaching in the Bible about casinos and gambling, we find very clear reference to divine love as the motivation for everything we do, divine love which expresses a sincere concern for our neighbor.

To love God with all our soul, heart, mind and strength, and then to share this divine love with our neighbor is the essence of our faith. Our identity badge as Christians should be our love for others! What does this love that Christ exemplified on the Cross, this love that we see victorious in the Resurrection, this love that Christ instilled in His followers and commanded us to witness and share with the world around them, what does this love have to do with gambling and casinos and other forms of “gaming entertainment?” Bringing casinos into Massachusetts has nothing to do with love, and as a Christian community, we have to raise our voice against allowing casinos to come into our commonwealth.

This sentiment was reiterated by all the faith leaders of Massachusetts! Cardinal O’Malley and the other three Roman Catholic bishops of our state highlighted how “expanded gaming in the Commonwealth opens the door to a new form of predatory gaming. The gambling industry threatens local businesses, weakens the moral fabric of society, and fundamentally alters communities for decades to come. Three destination resort casinos and a ‘slots’ parlor will saturate the entire state, diminishing our rich heritage and history.”

Bishop Alan Gates of the Episcopal Diocese of MA gave a powerful statement when he used the recent example of Ohio, where he served for the past 10 years. Although Ohio residents rejected casinos in numerous previous ballots, the casino industry spent $47 million to capitalize on the economic distress following 2008, and a year later the residents of Ohio voted for the construction of four casinos in their state. “Now, two years after the opening of those Ohio casinos,” Bishops Gates related, “we see that the promise of 34,000 new jobs was false. There were 10,000 temporary construction jobs, and only 5000 permanent jobs created. After two and a half years, the tax revenue to state and local governments is well less than the amount which had been promised for the first year alone. In 2013, 682 people were treated for gambling disorders, compared with the previous year of 92. And the number of people screened in 2013 for gambling addiction was 14,355, compared with the recent previous annual average of 1,966. That is a 700% increase in the number of individuals and families affected by gambling addiction!”

And it’s not just in Ohio. Thus far in 2014, Delaware taxpayers have paid $43 million to bail out their failing casinos. Earlier this year, FOUR casinos closed in Atlantic City, including the two year old $2 BILLION Revels Casino. And now FIVE THOUSAND WORKERS are out of a job, feeling betrayed by a system that promised stable, well-paying jobs!

Rev. Anthony Livolsi, the pastor of Old South Church who hosted this event, noted that his church was home to some of the greatest movements in the history of our country. Samuel Adams and Benjamin Franklin spoke from this church, as did the patriots of the Boston Tea Party, and some of the first abolitionists in America. “The legendary lions of this congregation pled for the rights and welfare of the vulnerable, and so I believe they would be pulling out their hair to see some billionaire fat cat in Las Vegas profit on the backs of Boston’s needy and poor.  This is a battle between David and the Goliath predatory casino industry!”

Of course, in the end we are all free to vote as we choose about casinos. Yet as Orthodox Christians, I challenge us all to allow the Good News of our Lord Jesus Christ to influence our worldview, and thus, our vote. Love for God and love for our neighbor has absolutely nothing to do with bringing casinos into Massachusetts! Think about that on November 4th, and consider voting YES on Resolution 3. May we all strive to grow in divine love, and allow such love to direct us in all we do, and especially now as we think about casinos and gambling.

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