MBC targets Branson casino, begins “No Mo. Gambling” push
By Allen Palmeri
June 8, 2004
JEFFERSON CITY – The Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC) is launching a campaign to defeat an Aug. 3 ballot initiative seeking to place a casino in family-oriented Branson.
Dubbed the “No Mo. Gambling” campaign, it is designed to educate Missourians on the hazards of gambling while encouraging churches to get actively involved in registering voters and getting them to the polls on Aug. 3, said MBC Executive Director David Clippard.
“If every Missouri Baptist will influence four friends, we can defeat this initiative,” Clippard said.Rockaway Beach, located about 10 miles from Branson, is the object of the ballot question going before the voters:
Shall the Missouri Constitution be amended to authorize floating gambling facilities on or adjacent to the White River in Rockaway Beach, Missouri, to be licensed and regulated consistent with all other floating facilities in the state of Missouri, with 50 percent of the state revenues generated in the current year to be used for uniform salary supplement grants to all high quality teachers employed in priority schools, and the remaining state revenues generated in the current year to be distributed to all priority school districts on a per pupil basis for capital improvements to education facilities?”
Missouri Baptist pastors are to take the fight to the gambling syndicate, said Jay Scribner, pastor, First Baptist Church, Branson. Billboards and bulletin inserts will be the bullets, he said.
Plans call for billboards to be purchased in and around St. Louis and Kansas City, where seven of the state’s 11 casinos are located. Pastors in support of “No Mo. Gambling” are being asked to conduct voter registration drives well before the July 7 deadline, Scribner said. Two bulletin inserts for Missouri pastors to download from the MBC website will be made available in June as well.
The key to this grassroots campaign is networking, Clippard said. He plans to do his part by following up on his first letter to pastors, sent the first week of June, with another toward the end of the month. All of the state’s directors of missions, who are positioned to encourage the pastors, will be contacted as well.
Clippard said he got even more upset about gambling when he learned recently that for every casino in existence, $660 million annually leaves Missouri. Multiplied by 11, the number becomes astronomical. A 12th casino would be unconscionable, he said.
“It is strip-mining wealth right out of our state,” he said.
“Gambling does nothing to help an economy. If you don’t believe that, go out West and look at where the old mining towns and cattle towns were. Gambling could not and did not sustain the economy. It failed.”
Scribner has been the pastor of First Branson for 26 years and has been a statewide leader in the fight to protect families against gambling since 1992, when gambling became legal in Missouri. He said that gambling ruins a community spiritually, economically, morally and socially. It is time for no more gambling, Scribner said.“
The gambling issue is purely symptomatic,” Scribner said. “We are dealing with a values system gone awry. We are in a day and age where we are living in a values vacuum. Consequently, the issue of gambling is simply one more symptom of the cesspool of sin in which we find our society.”
Telephone campaigns can be very effective, Scribner said. By setting up 12-15 lines so that callers could do surveys from the church, First Branson volunteers were able to help register 1,000 new voters in 1992.
Any Missourian wishing to preserve Branson’s identity as a casino-free zone may visit www.NoMogambling.com starting June 12 for more information.