HISTORY has seen more than one period of gambling fever in the United States, but with the ease of transportation and communication in our society, the nation appears to be on a prolonged binge, a kind of love affair with Lady Luck.
There are only so many dollars at the disposal of gamblers, but seemingly no shortage of people willing to try their hand at it. The cable networks carry several programs blending professionals and celebrities in games like Texas Hold 'em in which amateurs can make money or, far more often, lose money in settings that look deceptively entertaining and are inevitably coarsening.
Regrettably, organized charities, ranging from churches to groups ostensibly at work to raise money for various causes, are getting involved more and more in gambling, lending this vice respectability it does not deserve.
Among them are Easter Seals, Special Olympics, Northeast Ohio Breast Cancer Coalition, Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, and the National High School Gymnastics Coaches Association, to name a few. In Cleveland a developer sponsored charity card games in an effort to build support for a constitutional amendment to legalize gambling headed for the ballot in November.
Ohioans can respond not only by opposing such a measure, but also by refusing to support charities that are willing to sell their good name for the shekels raked in by gambling activities. The rationale always is: Why not let us share in the good fortune of gambling winners instead of letting them pocket all that loot? The Eastern Shawnee tribe of Native Americans also hopes to cash in by laying claim to reservations near urban areas where they can hope for bigger casino crowds, as a few other tribes have done.
Gamblers even hope to take advantage of one of the nation's most historic Civil War shrines by opening a 3,000-slot gaming spa in Gettysburg, Pa., proposed by a group called Chance Enterprises. This was the result of a law passed in 2004, permitting 61,000 slot machines, most of them supposedly at existing race tracks. Promoters envision not only a new influx of tourists, but also visitors from Washington, D.C., whose environs have spread to an area only 45 minutes from Gettysburg.
The proposal has aroused civic opposition on grounds that the clash of Union and Confederate forces at Gettysburg was decisive in the ultimate abolition of human slavery and thus made the region hallowed ground. Also opposed to the spa are the Lutheran Theological Seminary, which figured prominently in the Battle of Gettysburg, 36 local churches, and 70 local businesses. The dispute has been called the Second Battle of Gettysburg, and this is one time the gambling interests should fold 'em.
That gambling moguls would even consider such a desecration of this historic battlefield is an indication of just how crass they can be. No doubt there always will be gambling in some areas, but communities and states where public gaming is not permitted - like Ohio - should fight hard to prevent this insidious moral blight.