Gambling Report

June 28, 1999

After two years of study, the federal government's National Gambling Impact Study Commission [Note: this is available online in PDF format at] has released its final report. Although this is the first time in 20 years that a federal commission has looked at gambling, I fear that its impact will be minimal. Most Americans greeted the report with a yawn, and many politicians receive money from gambling interests.

That doesn't negate the results. We live in a world with 15.4 million pathological gamblers. They leave a trail of bankruptcy, divorce, abuse, neglect, and suicide. The average compulsive gambler also has debts exceeding $80,000. And society pays even more for the social costs associated with legalized gambling in America.

In my most recent book, Moral Dilemmas, I argue that gambling is bad social policy, bad economic policy, and bad governmental policy. Gambling preys upon the poor and disenfranchised. They are not betting discretionary income, they are throwing away money that should be used for food, clothing, and shelter.

Economically gambling costs more than it brings into a community. One historian concluded that: "If history teaches us anything, a study of over 1300 legal lotteries held in the United States proves . . . they cost more than they brought in if their total impact on society is reckoned."

And finally gambling is bad governmental policy. Government should be promoting public virtue rather than enticing its citizens into state-sponsored vice. Citizens who would be outraged if their state government began enticing its citizens to begin taking drugs rarely consider the implications of state-sanctioned gambling.

The gambling commission report needs to be taken seriously. Gambling is a problem in America. It's bad social policy, bad economic policy, and bad governmental policy. In essence, legalized gambling in America is a bad bet.

I'm Kerby Anderson of Probe Ministries, and that's my opinion.