Are all businesses the same?

The headline for a front page story in today’s Washington Post says it all: In Break With Tradition, Casinos May Get Tax Breaks, Too. The rationale, from White House spokesman Trent Duffy:

…the federal government should not be picking which businesses should or should not rebuild. The emphasis of tax incentives should be to get people back to work, he said, and that means rebuilding structures as fast as possible.

No matter what sort of a business it is. Mississippi, along with other states, plays the hypocrite’s game with casinos: just park ’em offshore, and everything’s just fine. Along the Mississippi Gulf Coast, this means the water-borne equivalent of double-wides, which will never be moved. Except by an act of God.

I’m not suggesting that God had it in for the casinos. That would be too human, projecting onto He Who Is our smallness. Not to mention that there are far too many counter examples of good works on this earth being swept away by the same awesome power of God’s nature that destroys houses of gambling and prostitution.

The problem here, as always, is not with God. It is with us. Gambling, to be very unoriginal, is like crack cocaine to state and local politicians. It’s a painless, to them, way of raising taxes and providing jobs. Fostering it, while putting on a surface veneer of disdain, is now the norm. Gambling, or “gaming” as its proponents prefer to call it, isn’t really gambling for the casino owners, or for state and local politicos. They will win. Always. The losers are those who are not smart enough to know this, and keep coming back for more, on the hope that this time they will win. Some do; enough to keep afloat the wan hopes of the mass of suckers.

The first Bible verse that comes to my mind regarding gambling is the scene beneath the cross, just when Jesus is dying. From Luke 23:34, “they cast lots to divide his garments.” “They” being Roman soldiers who had just helped kill our Lord; “his garments” being Jesus’. Great imagery; one I’m sure you won’t find in gaudy oilcolors plastered on the walls of casinos.

Christians should avoid gambling, just as they avoid other things that may be legal but most definitely do not promote good stewardship. That is, tend to reduce one’s ability to care for their family and to help their fellow men and women who are in need. It’s simple: if you blow your paycheck on gambling, you might not be able to pay your rent.

I don’t advocate making gambling illegal. Each person needs to control themselves; it is not up to me or the state to do so. I do, however, strongly urge the President and others in authority to not encourage it in any way, shape, or form. If this is the only way that Mississippians can get jobs, better that they get welfare checks. It will be cheaper for society in the long run.

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