A reality check from Dr. James Dobson concerning the alarming penetration of gambling into the world of children and teenagers.
There is much more to be said, but perhaps I’ve already told you more than you wanted to know about gambling. Let me close, then, with a final word of warning about the Internet. Although Internet gambling is technically illegal, there are dozens of sites in operation which allow you to bet from the comfort of your own living room. Experts tell us that gambling addiction is related to several factors, chief among these being access to gambling and the speed of the games. Internet gambling is a lethal combination of these factors. Further, what’s to keep a youngster from getting a hold of Mom or Dad’s credit card and literally betting the house from his or her bedroom? For a while, Las Vegas and the corporate casino interests vigorously opposed Internet gambling, fearful of increased competition as well as potential scandals that could damage their own credibility. Suddenly, however, we are seeing a major shift. Casino Journal magazine recently “urge[d] America’s major gaming companies to become actively involved in promoting and sponsoring Internet gaming activities” largely because of the vast potential for increased profits.53
As I wrote in January, the gambling industry seems to get what it wants in Congress these days. An Internet gambling ban proposed by Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ) did not pass the House last fall.54 It isn’t difficult to guess why not. Don’t be surprised if your congressman soon starts singing the praises of Internet gambling while his or her re-election campaign gets a generous boost from the gamblers. Money is the mother’s milk for politicians, and few of them Democrats or Republicans are willing to criticize or vote against the industry that provides it. Focus on the Family will keep you informed of those who get the big bucks, and then try to link those contributions with voting records. The connection is usually striking.
As I close, let me respond to a small but potent amount of criticism coming from constituents who have asked why I’ve bothered to serve on the Commission, and why I would waste the time of my readers by talking about gambling. The question staggers me. Let me return to the comments I made at the beginning of this letter. If the implications for families and their children are viewed as inconsequential, given the factual information coming to light, what more can I say? Sometimes it seems as though people don’t get upset about much of anything today. Richard Cohen, a liberal journalist who assured us in 1996 that character didn’t matter,55 is now expressing astonishment at the apathy of the American people. He commented that this society “finds nothing immoral” not even the recent allegations of rape perpetrated by Bill Clinton when he was attorney general of Arkansas. That story appeared on the front page of the Washington Post! “Page one!” wrote Cohen, who then asked in disbelief, “Do you want to know what happened next? Nothing.”56 That disengagement typifies where we are as a nation. “Just leave me alone” appears to be the mantra.
Accordingly, when it comes to the curse of gambling and its implications for future generations, I fear that apathy is the prevailing attitude. I’m told that when a new gambling initiative is proposed in a state or a local community, pastors and churches (with some notable exceptions) are usually silent and uninvolved during the debate. It is as though the entire culture has forgotten why previous generations considered gambling to be a terrible curse, and why they fought to outlaw it. But now, it has become just another form of entertainment for fun-loving folks. This is why I serve, and this is why I write. Blessings to you all. Your financial assistance is needed at this time when the “spring slump” becomes a problem. Thank you for standing with us year after year.