Gambling leaves trail of human suffering, Baptist pastor warns
By Allen Palmeri
WENTZVILLE—Dan Hite knows what suffering looks like. He’s seen it in the eyes of the numb and the emotionless.
Since 1994—which coincidentally is when Missouri’s riverboat casinos began operating—Hite has been ministering at Hidden Valley Estates. The Missouri Baptist church that he pastors, Christian Family Fellowship, runs a nine-acre complex/community center at the multifamily housing community where people sometimes make poor decisions.
“On several occasions, we knew of single moms who had been to the boat, spent all their milk money for the kids, looking for assistance with some of their basic, basic needs,” Hite said. “I can’t tell you how many times we’ve run into that. Plus, dealing with people who have problem gamblers in their families—the devastation that comes as a result, financially as well as relationally. Those are huge, huge issues, and pastors have to deal with that.
“This is a hidden, hidden problem—one that’s really stuffed under the surface. It is an addiction certainly not unlike drugs and alcohol and other forms where someone just looks for that easy way to do it, that thrill of the moment, winning, to dump all their money and their resources there. And then pastors and counselors and other ministries are left to pick up the pieces. I just hate to see that.”
Hite is one of several statewide religious and civic leaders who are working to prevent the passage of Proposition A on Nov. 4. Defeat of the measure would keep the state’s $500 loss limit every two hours law intact and help ensure that the current high level of law enforcement inside the casinos is maintained. Hite is chairman of Missouri Clergy Against Gambling Expansion (MOCAGE).
“This is a grassroots effort,” he said. “People have to be self-governed and understand the reality and their responsibility as citizens, and to speak up for these things and not just let it happen.”
Hite also serves as president of the Freeway Foundation, which focuses on drug and violence prevention in the schools as well as pastoral ministry education on the seminary level for pastors and training Christian counselors. Another branch of the entity that Hite is helping to revive is the Christian Civic Foundation, which concentrates on moral concerns and building Christian citizenship.
“It’s really whatever kind of issue comes to the forefront—let’s see what the Bible has to say about it, and as Christians, let’s be salt and light in our communities,” Hite said.
“Churches are to be the conscience of the community, and our consciences need to be set by God’s Word. Churches help do that in the preaching and the teaching. That’s just set us on that course to be able to stand in defense of our communities when there’s something that comes in to wreak havoc, and this (Proposition A) is one of those things.”
The strategy being utilized by Hite and others is to drive traffic to the NOonA.com website. It is a simple strategy that trusts in the wisdom of Missouri’s citizens, who have traditionally supported the loss limit.
“If we could just have enough people who would just read the details of the ballot, I think they would vote no,” he said.