Voices: Why Texas Baptists oppose legalized gambling


One of the most surprising reports I heard from legislators during the 2023 Texas Baptists Advocacy Day concerned gambling. They said it was primarily Texas Baptists who are keeping sports betting, casinos and online lottery sales out of Texas.

It is truly a David vs. Goliath battle as Texas Baptists are up against a team of lobbyists and special interest groups who want gambling legalized.

So why are Texas Baptists against legalized gambling? Isn’t it a harmless source of entertainment that will generate more tax dollars for the state’s budget?

The No. 1 reason why we are opposed to gambling is because gambling takes advantage of the poorest and most vulnerable among us.

In Genesis 4, Cain was asked by God about the whereabouts of his brother Abel. Cain had murdered Abel, but he replied to God, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” The answer is, “Yes, you are!”

We are expected to look after one another and to love, care for and protect each other. Our Texas legislators are charged with protecting the weakest and most vulnerable among us. But if they vote to legalize gambling, it is proven statistically to harm the poor and young adults the most.

Gambling harms

Before joining the staff of the Baptist General Convention of Texas, I was pastor of Shiloh Terrace Baptist Church in East Dallas. The church is located in a lower- to middle-income neighborhood.

I’ll never forget one church member requesting benevolence assistance. She told me: “I have to hide the grocery money from my husband. He’ll waste it on lottery tickets and sometimes spend up to $100 a month on it. He’s sick.”

Habitual gambling is a mental illness. It’s a siren song appealing to our base desire to “get rich quick.”

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Make no mistake, the gambling industry is funded by those who can least afford to lose their money and who are most likely to become addicted.

Texas already struggles to provide mental health services to our residents. Legalized gambling would only compound the problem and create a new mental health crisis.

Almost 1 million young people between the ages of 14 and 21 in the United States are already gambling addicts. Some estimate up to 75 percent of college students have gambled in the past year.

In many instances, online sports wagering is worse for families than casino gambling. It’s accessible from their smartphones in the privacy of their homes instead of publicly.

An entire generation of addicted gamblers, often young males who like sports, are losing their livelihoods. They often leverage credit or borrow money from their small business if necessary to pay for their gambling addiction.

Gambling will lead to higher rates of crime, domestic violence, bankruptcies, divorce, depression and suicide.

Advocating against legalized gambling

I want to encourage you to contact your state representative, state senator and Gov. Abbott to let them know you are opposed to all forms of gambling. You can find your legislators here.

We are advocating for or against many other important issues as well. You can find the latest public policy update at the Christian Life Commission website.

Baptists are a politically diverse body of believers. Let’s take seriously the call to be salt and light, and let’s stand together to protect and preserve the culture around us until all people come to know Jesus.

Craig Christina is the associate executive director and acting executive director of Texas Baptists. This article is adapted from his Texas Baptists Weekly Update email and published by permission.

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