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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Saturday, January 26, 2002

Anti-gambling forces: tone down preaching

Focus on the Family, which opposes same-sex unions and abortion, has sent out a mass mailer warning Hawai'i residents that gambling won't solve the state's economic woes in the wake of the Sept 11 terrorist attacks. The mailer points out gambling's "highly addictive nature, its destruction of families, its seduction of young people" and other detrimental effects, including crime, bankruptcy, divorce, child abuse and suicide.

Though "Thou Shalt Not Gamble" isn't listed among the Ten Commandments, the Colorado-based Christian organization's Web site argues that gaming violates the Love Thy Neighbor principle because it is predicated on the losses, pain and suffering of others. They may have a point, but this isn't the Bible Belt. There are plenty of Islanders whose lives have not been destroyed by the occasional gaming frolic in Las Vegas, and who might be turned off by a crusade. And so as the odds increase for a referendum on gambling in Hawai'i, we suggest the anti-gaming forces keep their moralizing to a minimum.

Frankly, we'd hate to see the Islands take the route of Las Vegas or Atlantic City. But some in our political leadership appear to have run out of ideas on how to rev up our economic engine, and want to punt on gambling. The issue is attracting the attention of Mainland groups with national agendas, and their money.

We welcome their input. But we must be careful not to let scare tactics — whether it's framed as social anarchy or economic collapse — dominate the debate.