General Synod Statements: Gambling

In 1976, the General Synod’s Commission on Christian Action called state lotteries “a costly free lunch.” The report stated that the claim that state lotteries would bring millions of dollars into the public’s purse at virtually no cost to the public is not true. On the contrary, the cost would be immeasurable when gauged in terms of community life and Christian principles rather than in terms of dollars and cents. The report asserted that gambling elevates money to the status of a god. (MGS 1976: 185-187)

In 1981, the General Synod called on the church to oppose casino gambling. It stated:

Casino gambling is detrimental to our society. Most prominent is the corresponding increase in crime, both against the individual (robbery, murder, rape) and in the form of organized crime (prostitution, drug traffic, corruption of public officials). More hidden has been the harm done to the elderly and poor. The casino industry has few jobs for the unskilled, and the poor and elderly are displaced as their low-income housing in destroyed to make room for new casinos. Further, it is often the poor who gamble the little they have in hopes of “hitting it big”…casino gambling has a documented detrimental effect on our social, economic, and political system, and it contradicts basic aspects of our faith. (MGS 1981: 64-65)

The 1997 General Synod affirmed the statements of the 1976 and 1981 synods.

Gambling has become an addictive and detrimental part of this culture, as people seek easy answers and easy money instead of hard work and community responsibility. Too many individuals and too many governments have become addicted to the false promises of gambling. It is time to renew the call for RCA congregations and individuals to work against this scourge of society…Gambling distorts one’s view of the sovereignty and providence of God, it encourages greed and covetousness, it reflects a deficient perspective on work, and it promotes poor stewardship of resources. (MGS 1997: 87)

The 1997 Synod adopted four resolutions concerning gambling:

  • To encourage regional synods, classes, and RCA congregations to write letters to national, provincial, state, and local officials in support of policies that restrict gambling and in opposition of the expansion of gambling.
  • To establish an RCA policy which prohibits the investment of denominational funds in gambling-related companies.
  • To instruct the Office of Social Witness to keep the issue of gambling and its negative social consequences before the RCA.
  • To call upon RCA congregations to show love to individuals who are struggling with a gambling problem, and to ensure the needs of their families are met. (MGS 1997: 88-89)

The 2004 and 2005 General Synods reaffirmed this position. The 2005 General Synod also called for further research into 1) ways the RCA can lobby against the building of new casinos, and 2) resources congregations can use to help those who are addicted to gambling and seeking help.