The news that Manchester (my home town) has been ‘awarded’ the first of the UK’s super casinos is surely bad news. Gambling turnover has soared from £7 billion in 2001 to £50 billion in 2005. That ought to worry any government, but apparently not ours. Why is this?
Government research published in April 2006 explains why. The researchers conclude that deregulation will lead to “more money generated in the gambling sector than any other”. The increase will create jobs and inward investment. What is less clear is what the human cost to this epidemic will be?
“It’s quite clear from all the research figures that gambling is a more and more popular form of addiction in this country and we must not underrate the seriousness of that. […] All addictions are imprisonments for the soul and therefore any form of addiction is something that ought to be of concern to the population at large.” Archbishop of Canterbury 30/1/07
Why should this be of concern?
First, Christians have always had a concern for the poor. An industry set up to addict people to spending money that they often don’t have is a recipe for debt and consequently poverty. Much child poverty stems from adult spending. American research indicates that 6% of the population in the immediate vicinity of a casino end up being addicted to gambling. To speak for the poor is surely to speak out against economic structures which bring with them the threat of further poverty and enslavement.
Secondly, gambling offers false hope. Only a few ‘professional gamblers’ come out on top. The attraction of the possibility of a ‘quick fix’ solution to those who are already in debt has a weird fascination. To lure us into thinking we can be winners when most of us will be losers will break human spirits. To offer people no hope is bad enough; to offer them false hope is utterly cruel.