|Group studying gambling, American Indian sovereignty|
Bishop Deborah Kiesey, playing the role of a single mother, gestures for
one more play on a slot machine portrayed by John Hill, staff member of
United Methodist Board of Church and Society. Four gambling scenarios
were acted out by members of a study group on gambling at the social
justice agency's board meeting Sept. 13-16 in Washington. UMNS photos by
Kathy L. Gilbert.
By Kathy L. Gilbert*
Sept. 24, 2007 | WASHINGTON (UMNS)
Playing a college student, the Rev. Matthew Smith feeds his book money into the slot machine.
A single mother of three stops off at a casino on her way to the
grocery store hoping to win some extra cash to buy food and get her
family through the week.
A retired couple fresh from the bank with their monthly Social
Security check stop off at the Lucky Lady casino for a little fun, full
of dreams of supplementing their income.
A widow gets her husband's insurance check and is feeling so lonely
she thinks some time at the casino might bring her some luck and
A college student takes the money earmarked for his books and feeds
it into the slot machine because he is sure he will at least double his
Within minutes, their money is gone. They are left with a sense of
panic. How will I pay my bills? How will I feed my children? How will I
make this month's rent?
Those four scenarios were played out by members of the United
Methodist Board of Church and Society's special study group on gambling
to depict the typical people who go to casinos with dreams of bringing
home big bucks. The board meeting was held Sept. 13-16.
The special study group is sending revisions to the 2008 United Methodist General Conference on the paragraphs in the United Methodist Book of Discipline, the church's law book, that deals with the subject.
The United Methodist Church addresses gambling in its Social Principles,
paragraph 163G: "Gambling is a menace to society, deadly to the best
interests of moral, social, economic, and spiritual life, and
destructive of good government."
Phillis McCarty, a member of the Kiowa tribe, speaks on the conflict
between gambling dangers and economic benefits for Native American
However, the flip side to the gambling issue is the church's support
of American Indian tribal sovereignty and self-determination which often
means tribes are depending on gambling for most if not all of its
Creating sacred space
"The church's role is to create sacred space to allow for dialogue
and education that will promote a wholistic understanding of the
American Indians' historic quest for survival," reads a revision to
Social Principle 163G written by the special study group.
"I agree with the church, gambling is not good for anyone," said
Phillis McCarty, a member of the board and Kiowa tribe in Oklahoma City.
"There is a lot of conflict in my life. All three of my children are
employed by native tribes. My youngest is a maintenance worker with a
casino because they offered him employment."
McCarty said casinos have given tribes housing programs, clinics and
jobs they would not have had 50 years ago. "For every tribe in Oklahoma
the ladder out of the hole has been the casino."
According to the Rev. Deborah O'Conner-Slater, superintendent in
North Central New York, Turning Stone Casino has come into her area and
is a billion-dollar business. "Oneida (the kitchenware company) recently
closed and people turned to the casino to provide places to work," she
explained. "Those people don't have an issue with gambling."
O'Conner-Slater acknowledged gambling is a multi-layered issue with no easy answers.
The Rev. Deborah O'Conner-Slater talks about the impact casinos have had in
the North Central New York
The special group studying the issue will continue through the end of
the quadrennium, said the Rev. Cynthia Abrams, board staff member
assigned to alcohol, other drugs and health care. The group is working
to provide educational materials to local churches and annual
conferences for study and action to combat gambling and to aid
individuals addicted to gambling.
One of the guiding principles adopted by the group states: "We need
to demythologize and move from fiction to fact in our understanding of
American Indians and Indian Country."
"Gambling and tribal government has become a way of life," McCarty
said. "Without gambling we would be back in the hole we were in 50 years
ago. Economic development is the only way to solve this problem."
*Gilbert is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in Nashville, Tenn.
News media contact: Kathy L. Gilbert, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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