CAPE GIRARDEAU—The carpet of casino gambling, which is starting to loom large enough to be rolled out over virtually every square foot of Missouri territory, is about to be laid down in another room—the city of Cape Girardeau.
The gambling industry coveted another market, and it got what it wanted Dec. 1 when the Missouri Gaming Commission voted to choose Cape Girardeau as the location for their next project. A November vote of the people in that city indicated that 61 percent were in favor of the move, which arrives as all gambling proposals do, in a pretty package that promises jobs and civic development.
“I was reading my King James Bible this morning, and next year it will be 400 years old,” said Doug Austin, a former member of the Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC) Executive Board and a member of Bethany Baptist Church in town who helped organize opposition to the casino. “That is the test of time. Talk to me in 10 or 15 years about casinos and you will find the greatest mistake America has ever made was embracing gambling as a positive means of raising revenue.”
Cape Girardeau “beat out” two other competing areas for the right to obtain the lone license available in the state’s system of 13 capped casino licenses. Those “losing” areas were St. Louis and Sugar Creek in Kansas City. The Cape casino is going to be worth $125 million and will be located downtown along the Mississippi River, according to the Associated Press.
“I am sad that a new casino is coming anywhere to Missouri,” said MBC Executive Director David Tolliver. “The impact of this casino will hurt our state. I’m sad for the people in Cape Girardeau just as I would have been for those in St. Louis or Kansas City had it gone there.”
Jeff Brown, chairman of the MBC’s Christian Life Commission who also serves as associate professor of Christian Studies at Hannibal-LaGrange University and pastor of First Baptist Church in Mexico, agreed with Tolliver.
“Conservative Christians have succeeded on many moral issues of the day, but gambling, and particularly casino building, has been a difficult area to contain,” Brown said. “I don’t believe that it is a coincidence since Scripture makes it abundantly clear that money competes with God for our service, adoration and worship. Unfortunately, many areas of our state have effectively built ‘shrines’ to God’s greatest competitor.
“Clearly, the lure of a ‘fast buck’ is a very contagious disease. Not only do gamblers not seriously consider that the odds are grossly stacked against them, but they also fail to realize that any funds gained are at the loss of others who squandered funds that were intended for their heating bills, grocery bills, children’s welfare, and their Lord. There are no ‘winners’ in gambling.”
Brown said the church must own up to the problem.
“Until we both effectively teach and model ‘godliness with contentment’ we will never bring our postmodern culture to a point where it feels that casinos are more trouble than they are worth,” he said. “Jesus warned us of the evil of loving money. The reality that our state is willing to take such funds at such great risk to its citizens is troubling to say the least. It is clear, nonetheless, that we who oppose gambling have our work cut out for us in future battles.”
Bill Jetton, director of missions, Cape Girardeau Baptist Association, said the presence of the new casino in town will require new ministry methods to reach into that culture that can so often be marked by lost wages, crime, and despair.
“Cape Girardeau is going to suffer from this in the long run,” Jetton said. “The biggest thing I see is the false feeling of impact in the schools that never do see the revenue that they are supposed to see. That’s what I have seen in the past.”
ALLEN PALMERI/associate editor