From the first day The Pathway began publishing, God has impressed upon us to use it to warn His Church of impending danger. The moral issues facing American society have grown exponentially in recent decades, posing challenges to a biblical worldview.The Pathway strives to provide Missouri Southern Baptists with biblical answers to society’s problems. The Pathway staff sees ourselves as watchmen in the watchtower, as described in Ezekiel 33. We feel called to warn the Church of sin and imminent danger.
Take for example, gambling, which is legal in Missouri. There are 8,062 licensed gambling operators in the state. They had adjusted gross receipts of $94.5 million in 2018, according to the Missouri Gaming Commission – and they want more. Powerful gambling industry lobbyists roam the State Capitol and those opposing them are often woefully undermanned and not nearly as well-funded in order to persuade lawmakers, the media and citizens.
And now a new, predatory phenomenon – digital slot machines – are springing up in gas stations, restaurants, truck stops and grocery stores across Missouri. The Missouri Highway Patrol has cracked down, seizing such machines. Companies that own these new, digital slots say they are legal because players can click an icon to view the outcome of a wager before moving forward. The companies say this removes the element of “chance” – which would make the games illegal – even though players do not have to click the icon before placing a bet. Overall, problem gamblers account for 40 to 60 percent of slot machine revenues, according to studies conducted over the past decade or so.
A Missouri Highway Patrol officer told a Missouri House committee last year that the machines are illegal and that the patrol’s investigations into unregulated slot machines resulted in a plethora of criminal referrals to local prosecutors in 2019. Possession of gambling device charges were filed last year by prosecutors in Audrain, Camden, Johnson, Newton, Polk and Platte counties. Gambling is defined in the Missouri Constitution.
The legal battle aside, there are some fundamental scriptural principles that apply toward gambling. The first is the emphasis Jesus placed on loving our neighbor as ourselves (Mark 12:31). Gambling is predicated on the losses and subsequent suffering of others. For someone to win at gambling, someone must lose. Too often it is families who suffer from gambling addiction that too often results in divorce, child abuse, bankruptcy, domestic violence, crime and even suicide. Philippians 2:3-4 says, “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves, do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.” (Also see Matt. 7:12, Luke 6:31, 10:25-37, Rom. 12:10 and Heb. 13:1-2).
Gambling preys and exploits the desperation of the poor. The National Gambling Impact Study Commission found that those with incomes of less than $10,000 spend more on lottery tickets than any other group, while high school dropouts spend four times as much as college graduates. This is at odds with Scripture, which teaches us to look out for the poor and warns those who seek to take advantage of them. Proverbs 14:21 says, “He who despises his neighbor sins, but happy is he who is gracious to the poor.” (Also see Proverbs 14:31 and 22:16.)
Gambling also undermines the work ethic which God established for mankind. The Bible repeatedly tells us to supply our own needs and those of our families by engaging in productive labor. The Apostle Paul, writing in 1 Tim. 5:8 says, “But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” (Also see Proverbs 21 and 2 Thess. 3:10). We are also exhorted to work in order to have something to share with others (Eph. 4:28). Gambling resists this by promising something for nothing.
These new digital slot machines springing up across Missouri are a threat to Missouri families. If Missouri courts do not find them illegal, then the Missouri General Assembly must act to at least regulate and tax them. The wise move would be to kick them out of the state. The last thing Missouri families need is a slot machine dressed up as a video game on the corner of every street.