Oklahoma Conference of the United Methodist Church

Gambling opponent urges action


Tom Grey, right, and an OCU student discuss the impact of predatory gambling.

Tom Grey, right, and an OCU student discuss the impact of predatory gambling.

Retired clergyman Tom Grey of Illinois spoke harshly about predatory gambling during a recent visit in Oklahoma City.

"Let’s name it what it is," he declared. "It’s not gaming; it’s gambling. Governments took the bl out—but BL stands for Big Loser. Truth is powerful."

He spoke at a Jan. 15 luncheon sponsored by the Conference Board of Church & Society and the Wimberly Center for Continuing Education in Religion at Oklahoma City University. Church & Society plans to offer a more extensive program on the topic in autumn, according to Kirk Moelling, board chairman and pastor of OKC-Lakeside.

For 13 years, Rev. Grey has fought governments’ support of gambling to fund public services such as education. His work began in Chicago, as a special assignment by a United Methodist bishop. Today he is field director for Stop Predatory Gambling, a national grassroots coalition based in Washington, D.C.

Grey’s statistics may startle some people. He said the highest suicide rate is among gambling addicts. More bankruptcies and fraud cases are reported in counties with casinos. More than 100 casinos operate in Oklahoma. The state ranks No. 3 nationally in the number of addictive gambling machines.

He acknowledged reports that casino revenue benefits some Native American tribes. "But at what cost? What is it going to do to communities in 20 years or less?" he asked.

Grey also pointed out lottery revenue has not met state predictions of income for education. Voters approved the lottery in late 2004.

"The difficulty is no one is talking about this in Oklahoma. This state went so far so fast. How do we deal with something that has made you third in the nation? What is the role of the Church?" he questioned.

He advocated "kitchen-table talk" as more effective than pulpit speeches. He offered to help committed Oklahomans campaign to eliminate all electronic gambling machines.

At the luncheon, Rev. Moelling handed out The United Methodist Church’s Social Principles. The denomination’s stance on gambling is in Paragraph 163g.


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