Discussions and debate about casino gambling have been going on for
decades in New York State. In recent weeks, nonetheless, announcements
and rumors about legalizing casino gambling in Western New York appear
to be running ahead of and short circuiting necessary discussion.
again casino gambling is hailed as the quick fix, the magic bullet, the
windfall that will lift the local economy to dream like levels of
fortune. We know, however, from actual experience around the United
States in recent years that those dreams too often become cruel
nightmares. The best that can be said is that their economic success is
The issue of casino gambling forces us to look
at deeper questions of character and spirit in a community. What does
casino gambling do to our soul? The record is compelling: dramatic rises
in street crime, prostitution, rapes, robberies, murder, car thefts.
Organized crime follows casino gambling as night the day.
time. Listen to the stories. Older people lose their retirement nest
eggs. Families break down. Jobs are lost. Businesses go bankrupt.
Corruption eats away at government. The poor suffer devastating
Talk to religious leaders and other community
leaders in parts of the United States that have casino gambling. I have.
Listen to them describe the way it corrodes the moral fiber of a
society. Hear those with insight as they point out in frightening detail
the corrosive impact it has on the minds of young and old alike. Let
them relay the accounts of parents trying desperately to strengthen
religious schools and education programs to combat the pervasive effects
of casino gambling in the tone of a community. Parents enroll their
children for Catholic schools at Baptism. Hear how materialism
overwhelms, how the constant seeking for a windfall eclipses the work
ethic and the tougher but more rewarding pursuits of the human spirit.
at the studies. According to the National Council on Compulsive
Gambling, 5 to 8 percent of people who play games of chance become
compulsive gamblers, with another 15 to 20 percent gambling beyond a
normal degree. The Council reports that more than half of compulsive
gamblers rely on illegal means to support their habit.
gambling is a pernicious cancer. Once a community contracts it, or makes
a compact with it, it grows, and grows, and grows. And the pathology of
addiction grows with it.
A 1995 survey by the Gaming Research
Group found that United States adults who have a casino in or near their
communities are more than twice as likely to gamble at a casino as are
those who live at least 100 miles from one.
Everyone knows that
the needs for economic development in Western New York are acute. Some
recent accomplishments are encouraging, but there is a long way to go.
When people have a sense of economic desperation, there is a temptation
to fall easily for the allure of the seemingly quick fix. On the
strictly economic level there are large questions as to the benefits of
casino gambling. In addition to what has already been stated, factor in
the infrastructure expenses, the regulating costs (which increase and
increase), the expenses to the criminal justice system, and the immense
social welfare costs. Where in the world have the social welfare
expenditures been able to repair the human damage caused by casino
In the larger economic picture Western New York has
enormous resources. Space constraints prevent a full bill of particulars
here, but look at just two for now and for the coming century: energy
and fresh water. Wide areas of the United States and many countries of
the world are currently facing critical shortages of both, and the
emergencies will become chronic. We have immediate access to abundant
resources of both. They worked for us in the twentieth century.
Creativity, hard work, technology, and character can make for a brighter
Or we can add to the list of places already labeled, "Sin City."
so-called quick fix, easy solution, shortcut, can short circuit our
potential. Even if there were economic gains from casino gambling, and
there are serious reservations about that, the haunting theme remains:
what does it profit us to gain the whole world and lose our soul?
It is a matter of soul.
Most Rev. Henry J. Mansell
Bishop of Buffalo
July 16, 2001