The Baptist Convention of New Mexico has given its Christian Life Committee the responsibility of mobilizing New Mexico Baptists in addressing moral issues of concern in our state and nation.

Legislative Breakfast (Mission Trip to the Capitol)

Every year, the Christian Life Committee of the Baptist Convention of New Mexico hosts a Legislative Breakfast and training in January.  Every BCNM church is encouraged to send its pastor and/or a key layperson to the breakfast and to attend a meal and a training session the night before. 

All state legislators and officials are invited to join leaders of New Mexico Baptist churches at the breakfast, which will be held at the Hilton Hotel, at 100 Sandoval Street, from 7-8:15.

The church leaders also are urged to attend a meal and a training session at 6 p.m. on Thursday evening at First Baptist Church in Santa Fe, which is located at 1605 Old Pecos Trail.

Contact us for more information by emailing [email protected] or by calling the Baptist New Mexican in Albuquerque at 505-924-2311, or 1-800-898-8544 ext. 311.

Regular Legislative Updates Available

The Baptist Convention of New Mexico’s Christian Life Committee networks with a number of allies in its work of addressing moral concerns of the state, including theTraditional Values Advocacy Committee, Voices for Family Values and Stop Predatory Gambling New Mexico.

Regular updates concerning moral issues being considered at the New Mexico Capitol in Santa Fe and the U.S. Capitol in Washington can be found at www.tvacnm.com,www.vffv.org and www.spgnewmexico.org.

Contacting State Legislators During Legislative Session

CALL—their direct extension (see “How to Find Your State Legislators” on page 7) or the Capitol switchboard at (505) 986-4300. Give the operator the name of your senator or representative, and ask to be connected to his or her extension.

WRITE—Address letter to: The Honorable (Name), New Mexico House of Representatives OR New Mexico State Senate, State Capitol, Santa Fe, NM 87501.

EMAIL: Individual email addresses can be found on the Legislature’s website. (See “How to Find Your State Legislators” on page 7.)

Remember, also involved in the legislative process is the governor. Gov. Susana Martinez may be contacted at:

Office of the Governor; 490 Old Santa Fe Trail; Suite 400; Santa Fe, NM 87501; (505) 476-2200;
www.governor.state.nm.us/Contact_the_Governor.aspx

You can read bills at www.nmlegis.gov/lcs and get information about their progress. A mobile site for smartphones, iPads and other devices can be found at www.nmlegis.gov/lcs/mobile.

Articles

FIRST PERSON: Casinos and Gambling

Joe Carter

Joe Carter

By Joe Carter

WASHINGTON (BP)—The Council on Casinos, a group dedicated to fighting the spread of gambling in America, has released a report on “Why Casinos Matter.” Here are various facets of the report, released in late September, that you should know about casinos and gambling:

1. Throughout most of the 20th century, legal casino gambling in the U.S. existed in only two locations: Nevada and Atlantic City, N.J. Beginning in the 1990s, casinos spread across the nation at an accelerating pace. Today, 23 states have commercial casinos, a category which includes land-based, riverboat, dockside and racetrack casinos, not counting those on Native American lands. In the Northeast and mid-Atlantic states, nearly every adult now lives within a short drive of a casino.

2. Unlike the old Vegas-style resorts, the new regional casinos depend decisively on attracting gamblers who live in the region, who return frequently and who play modern slot machines. In 1978, outside of Nevada, there were virtually no legal slot machines in the United States. By 2010, there were about 947,000. In 2013, the percentage of casinos’ total gambling revenue deriving from slot machines is estimated at 62 to 80 percent, with racinos (racetrack casinos) getting 90 percent of their take from slots.

3. Modern slot machines are programmed for fast, continuous and repeat betting. Players insert plastic, not coins; they tap buttons or touch a screen rather than pull levers; they place bets in denominations ranging from a penny to a hundred dollars on multiple lines that spin across a screen with each rapid tap of the button. The laws of pure chance or probability no longer dictate wins and losses on slot machines. Modern slots are hooked up to a central server that collects player information, preferences and speed of play and has the capacity to program each machine to each player’s style. The trend in slot design is to provide a slow and smooth “ride,” with small wins that are less than the amount bet, but nonetheless encourage repeat bets and prolonged “time on machine.”

4. Problem gamblers account for 40 to 60 percent of slot machine revenues, according to studies conducted over the past decade or so.

5. A large-scale study in 2004 found that people who live within 10 miles of a casino have twice the rate of pathological and problem gambling as those who do not.

6. A study of members of Gamblers Anonymous found that upwards of 26 percent have gambling-related divorces or separations.

7. A study that looked at the spread of casino gambling in 300 Metropolitan Statistical Areas found that the presence of a casino reduces volunteerism, civic participation, family stability and other forms of social capital within 15 miles of a community where it is located.

8. Casino gambling once was a largely upper-class activity. Today, low-income workers, retirees, minorities and the disabled include disproportionately large shares of regional casino patrons.

9. States typically legalize casino gambling by changing state constitutions. They create regional monopolies for the casinos. They regulate lightly and often in ways that discriminate against other legal businesses. They rescue casinos from bankruptcy. In short, without the legal, administrative, regulatory and promotional advantages provided by state governments, casinos would not be spreading into mainstream American life as they are today and would likely still exist only on the fringes of the society.

Joe Carter is director of communications for the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention. The full text of the Council on Casinos report can be accessed at www.americanvalues.org/pdfs/Why-Casinos-Matter.pdf.

Gambling Offers a False Hope

Lee Herring

Lee Herring

By Lee Herring

Gambling is embedded in our culture. How often has someone said something like: “I bet.” “Wanna bet?” “I wouldn’t take that bet.” “All bets are off.” As an avid sports enthusiast, I’ll have frequent conversations about an upcoming game that will include the discussion as to which team is favored and by how many points, aspects of a sporting contest that are primarily determined by businesses that profit from gambling. I know I’m not the only pastor in New Mexico who has had church members recommend a concert performance, a quality buffet or the hotel accommodations offered by the numerous casinos in our state. We are surrounded by and suffused with the culture of gambling.

So what’s a good Southern Baptist to do about gambling? When our local and state governments promote it, our students believe they can profit from it (i.e., the state sponsored lottery), our friends and family members earn incomes because of it, and whole culture groups believe that gambling is a quick and legitimate way to deliver their people from financial hardship, should we continue to tow the traditional Baptist view that gambling is a sin? Isn’t it time to rethink our traditional ethic on gambling, suggesting that instead of avoiding it altogether, we can preach tolerance and sensible indulgence? I mean really, what are the odds that a little gambling can do any harm?

A great resource to the harm that gambling/lotteries/casinos create is the Stop Predatory Gambling website, stoppredatorygambling.com. Dr. Guy Clark is the chairman of SPG and is a longtime friend and fellow advocate of the Baptist Convention of New Mexico’s Christian Life Committee in regard to gambling issues. The website offers legitimate, well-researched facts about how gambling negatively affects individuals, families, culture groups and governments. The casino highway billboards and television ads may put a shiny gloss on “gaming,” but there is a higher physical and financial cost to gambling than most people are willing to admit.

Though the Bible does not directly address gambling, God’s Word clearly establishes ethics on financial gain and stewardship that would preclude a believer’s involvement in gambling. Scriptures like 1 Timothy 6:10, Luke 16:13, Ecclesiastes 5:10 and Proverbs 10:4 indicate that God’s desire is for His people to work legitimately for their income and to abstain from a lust for money. In contrast, gambling offers the false hope of getting lots of money quickly with no more effort than placing a chip or pushing a button. The Bible also demands that God’s people act to the benefit of our community. Scriptures like 1 Peter 4:9-10, Luke 12:33, Acts 4:34-35 and 1 Timothy 6:17-19 teach that Christians should help others instead of allowing or participating in opportunities that can cause great financial and psychological damage.

Too often too many individuals and communities bet on the false hope that gambling is only a harmless diversion that can offer numerous financial benefits to those who sponsor or participate in it. Instead of believing the lie, may we as Christians live lives of integrity and compassion, giving evidence by our faith and kindness that Jesus is the source and foundation for our security and well-being.

Lee Herring is pastor of First Baptist Church, Santa Fe, and a member of the BCNM’s Christian Life Committee.

Gambling—the Bane of Civilized Society

Mark Burton

Mark Burton

By Mark Burton

Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid (Matthew 5:14).

Webster’s 1828 Dictionary:
CIVILIZED, pp. Reclaimed from savage life and manners; instructed in arts, learning and civil manners.—Such sale of conscience and duty in open market is not reconcilable with the present state of civilized society.
SOCI’ETY, n. [L. societas, from socius, a companion.]

1. The union of a number of rational beings; or a number of persons united, either for a temporary or permanent purpose. Thus the inhabitants of a state or of a city constitute a society, having common interests; and hence it is called a community.

We call ourselves civilized. We make remarks like “back to civilization” after a camping trip. We use the phrase “entire civilized world” referring to shared resources, peaceful transactions and educational opportunities. Yet there is a dark side to so-called “civilized society.” 1 Timothy 6:10 says the love of money is the root of all evil. The love of money can lead even the otherwise righteous into evil.

Predatory gambling is the practice of using gambling to prey on human weakness for profit. For-profit gambling, or commercial gambling, is illegal unless the government makes it legal. Where you have legal gambling, the government has given its support and, in nearly every instance, operates in partnership with gambling interests, whether in the form of state lotteries, commercial casinos or tribal casinos.

Government predatory gambling programs are different than social gambling:

1) Faster games

2) Bigger prizes and greater losses

3) Greater frequency and time played

4) More sophisticated business practices

How does predatory gambling affect the economy?

1) In 2010, the Lehigh Valley Research Consortium released a report showing that 48 percent of those below the poverty line in the Lehigh Valley intend to gamble at the Sands Casino in Bethlehem, Pa.

2) At Creighton University, Ernie Goss, professor of economics, and Edward Morse, professor of law, used bankruptcy information to compare the roughly 250 U.S. counties with commercial or Indian casinos. “Our regression analysis on matched-pair counties indicates that those counties that legalized casino gambling during the 1990s experienced a cumulative growth rate in individual bankruptcies that was more than double the growth rate for corresponding non-casino counties.”

3) The “Consumerist” recently had an interesting post about a study that shows that poor households, with annual take-home incomes under $13,000, on average spend $645 a year on lottery tickets, which comes to about 9 percent of their yearly income.

4) Players who cannot pay back loans face criminal charges. Casinos send a demand letter and can refer the case to the local DA’s office bad-check unit which prosecutes such crimes. Sometimes casinos also file a civil suit. In addition, casinos do not have to abide by regulations of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.

Be the light of the world Christ intended us to be.

Sign an American declaration on government and gambling at www.stoppredatorygambling.org/.

Mark Burton is a member of Eastern Hills Baptist Church, Albuquerque, and the BCNM’s Christian Life Committee.