Today, the final vote on the Gambling Bill will take place in Parliament. This has been one of the most contentious pieces of legislation to come out of the current Labour government: if passed, it will pave the way for the UK’s first "supercasino" in Manchester, with the promise of 16 new casinos elsewhere in the UK.
There is nothing in the Bible that explicitly forbids gambling per se, and those who support the bill point to the local regeneration and investment that would benefit the communities in which these casinos are built.
However, I am concerned about the effects on the poorest people in our communities. You do not need to look far to see a lust for wealth and a widespread hankering after what we do not have in our society. Whether it’s a new car, the latest plasma wide-screen television or a bigger house, we are bombarded at every turn with the message that we should aspire to these things. And for the very poorest, it can seem as though the only way to attain financial security, never mind these luxuries, is to turn to gambling. In the UK, gambling turnover has increased from £2billion to £50billion from 2001 to 2005.
So I am concerned about the exploitation of the poor and the potential of these new casinos to breed more addicts. This becomes all the more important when we look at yesterday’s official figures which showed that the number of children living in relative poverty in the UK rose by 200,000 last year.
This presents the church with a challenge. What do we do about working with those in need in our communities to help them realise their potential and work towards achieving it, not through fake promises of wealth, but through real and sustainable transformation?
I’d love to hear your thoughts….