- Faith & Family
As the effects of the recession continue to linger and unemployment rates remain high – in Florida, the unemployment rate is 10.6 percent – local governments are considering new ways to generate revenue and create jobs.In Florida, new proposals under consideration would allow up to three casino resorts to be built in Miami-Dade and Broward counties. To promote job growth, the legislature would require that casino owners promise to spend $2 billion in construction over five years. One of the proposed casinos, to be located on Biscayne Bay, estimates that it will provide up to $600 million a year for the state and create 100,000 jobs.
Yet many organizations in the faith community remain unconvinced the new casinos will truly benefit citizens and local communities.
At a press conference in Tallahassee on Tuesday, Nov. 2nd, representatives from organizations such as the Florida Catholic Conference, the Florida Baptist Conference, and Family Action Policy were on hand to announce their opposition to the bill.
“Our opposition [on Nov. 2nd] is especially based on our belief that expansion of casino gambling will victimize the poor and encourage addictive gambling,” said D. Michael McCarron, the executive director of the Florida Catholic Conference.
The Florida Baptist State Convention’s legislative consultant Bill Bunkley is calling for a moratorium “to prohibit any expansion of gambling” until a state-sponsored study or commission has analyzed the social and financial costs of the proposed new casinos.
In Miami, many local ministers were also reluctant to support a job creator with so many potential side effects.
To anyone who says that South Florida badly needs jobs – any jobs – Reverend Gregory Thompson, the president of the African American Council of Christian Clergy, warned, “drug dealers put people to work too, but they are also preying on people who have a habit or an addiction or a desire to become rich.”
Studies have found that casinos or other gambling venues can negatively impact the surrounding community. According to the National Gambling Impact Study Report, when casinos are within a 50 mile radius of a community, gambling addiction percentages double. Meanwhile, the further away from a casino a neighborhood is, the lower it’s personal bankruptcy filing rate is likely to be according to a Federal Reserve study.
“In my humble opinion, that sort of exploitation is not good for this community,” said Thompson, pastor of New Harvest Missionary Baptist Church.
However, if the proposal to build more casinos in South Florida is passed, many Christians seeking employment may be faced with deciding if they are willing to work for a company that endorses gambling.
Although personally opposed to gambling, Elder Marietta Freeman, the director for New Birth Baptist Church’s Employment Ministry, believes individual Christians must decide whether to work at a casino themselves.
Freeman said, “You just have to go before your God and see if this is what He is telling you to do.”
However, the minister further stated, “I know people need to work but [Christians] have to be very careful about what we do, even what jobs we take, because sometimes those things – just being in that sort of environment – can lead us into temptation.”
By Kaila Heard