Pastors stand equipped to counter the deception of gambling ads
By Allen Palmeri
July 20, 2004
JEFFERSON CITY – The CDs have been mailed. Many Missouri Baptist pastors have confirmed that they have received them. The day of reckoning for a riverboat casino in Rockaway Beach – Aug. 3 – is approaching. That is the day Missourians will go to the polls and vote on whether to amend the state constitution (called Amendment 1 on the ballot) that would allow casino gambling on the White River in the southwest part of the state.
The question now is this: Will Missouri Baptist pastors pick up their “No Mo. Gambling” CDs and preach sermons July 25 or Aug. 1 on what the Bible has to say about this threat to the family-friendly Branson area?
Rodney Albert, chairman of the Christian Life Commission of the Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC) and pastor, Hallsville Baptist Church, said he has been meditating on the importance of pastors lately. He said pastors were the key to the American Revolution as well as the Civil Rights Movement. Will pastors motivate Missourians to defeat Amendment 1?
“We can’t compete with multi-million-dollar political strategies,” Albert said. “Their ads are professional but deceitful. They package the lie in a believable way, but at the end of the day, gambling will not help the citizens of Rockaway Beach.
“We do, however, have the truth, and we have access to grassroots Missourians, and it is our duty as pastors to spiritually speak to cultural issues.”
A hermit on an Ozark mountaintop may have avoided seeing or hearing television and radio ads touting the Rockaway Beach casino, but no one else has. Gambling proponents are spending $10.6 million.
Pro-family groups are spending much less. The MBC is spending $36,000, according to MBC Executive Director David Clippard. Peter Herschend, vice chairman, Herschend Family Entertainment, and spokesman, Show Me You Care campaign, said the campaign has spent approximately $1.1 million to defeat Amendment 1.
Clippard said at church one Sunday he learned that a lady had been going around the pews picking up MBC-produced bulletin inserts on gambling and traditional marriage. After collecting a stack, she distributed the inserts in her neighborhood. That is the type of grassroots stratagem that can help preserve the family-friendly climate around Branson, Clippard said.
Clippard is encouraging voters to visit www.NoMoGambling.com so that they can be fully informed on Aug. 3. The website, produced by the MBC, is filled with bulletin inserts, Sunday School lessons, sermon ideas, cartoons, articles on gambling and specifics on how to pray.
Websites are an important weapon for pro-family forces and NoMoGambling.com is partnering with amendment1no.com, casinowatch.org, crown.org, lifeway.com and namb.net to inform voters. The goal of each one of these websites is to truthfully demonstrate the evils of gambling.
“God’s Word is clear, we’re to love God and love our neighbors,” said Kenny Qualls, MBC associate executive director. “In gambling, the only way you win is someone else has to lose. It absolutely flies in the face of everything that love is.”
The MBC mailed 275,000 bulletin inserts in early July to educate church members about the perils of casino gambling. Radio spots costing $10,000 are being purchased for the final two weeks of the campaign, Clippard said.
Amendment1no.com, the “Show Me You Care” emphasis, is a statewide organization spawned by business-sector opposition to the casino in Branson and Taney County. Their website lists four reasons why voters should reject the proposal.
First, gambling is out of control in Missouri with 11 existing casinos. Second, crime, divorce and child abuse will rise due to gambling, according to national statistics. Third, it will harm the tourist sector in that people will go less often to shows, amusement parks and other family-oriented attractions. And fourth, if gambling is not stopped now, it won’t take long before slot machines are seen all over the state.
The Springfield News-Leader editorialized against the casino July 11, calling it “a false savior.” With its family-friendly image and national reputation, Branson contributes more than $40 million in sales tax to the state economy. It would be foolish to risk losing some of those millions because of an “offensive” casino, the editorial writers reasoned. The proposed Rockaway Beach casino is nothing but a “get-rich-quick scheme,” and “it’s promises are a fraud,” the News-Leader said.
The state’s two major newspapers, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and the Kansas City Star, have also editorialized against the casino.
“Show Me You Care” puts out an electronic newsletter that can be obtained by emailing INFO@acr-nally.com. Qualls said the organization has been polling potential voters all over Missouri. The outcome is still very much in question.
“The latest polling shows that it’s very close,” Qualls said. “We need everybody to vote.”
Herschend predicts Amendment 1 will be defeated.
“The issue that will cause it to prevail is Amendment 2 (the state constitutional amendment to protect traditional marriage),” he said. “There is a lot more passion behind the sanctity of marriage than there is behind slot machines.”
Herschend also said that the frequency with which the casino supporters are running their ads will prove to be annoying to voters.