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Board celebrates passage of Internet gambling law

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A UMNS photo by Kathy L. Gilbert

Jim Winkler addresses members of the United Methodist Board of Church and Society.
Oct. 20, 2006

By Kathy L. Gilbert*

WASHINGTON (UMNS) -- A front-page headline in the Washington Post on the defeat of Internet gambling provided cause for celebration during the United Methodist Board of Church and Society's fall meeting.

"'New Law Cripples Internet Gambling' is the headline above the fold," said Jim Winkler, top executive of the agency, as he waved the newspaper's Oct. 14 edition from the podium during the board's meeting. "This reflects seven years of hard work by this board."

The Post article said the legislation eliminated "an activity enjoyed by as many as 23 million Americans who wagered an estimated $6 billion last year."

The Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act prohibits online gamblers from using credit cards, checks and electronic fund transfers to place and settle bets. The board worked in a coalition with a variety of Christian and family groups and other organizations, including the National Football League, National Collegiate Athletic Association, National Basketball Association, National Council of Churches and Concerned Women for America.

"It was really a remarkable coalition across ideological and theological divides, and between organizations and churches concerned about justice and between major sporting enterprises that are concerned about the impact of gambling on the integrity of their sports," Winkler said.

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The Rev. Cynthia Abrams
The Rev. Cynthia Abrams, a board staff member, played a key role behind the scenes in working on the legislation, Winkler said. A turning point came during an Iowa field hearing in which United Methodist Bishop Gregory Palmer testified in support of the legislation. U.S. Rep. James Leach, R-La., and Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., were at the hearing. Afterward, Frist threw his support behind the legislation.

"Congressman Jim Leach on the floor of the House of Representatives personally and publicly thanked Cynthia Abrams and the United Methodist Church for the key role she and we played in getting this passed," Winkler said.

Both Winkler and Abrams said the passage of this legislation will especially protect children and young adults.

"It is very hard to regulate who has access to Internet gambling sites," Winkler said. "Poker is just exploding in popularity as well as other kinds of betting and sports betting. Millions of people get sucked into addictive behavior."

"We have been historically opposed to gambling in all its forms," Abrams said. "We have to be very careful to protect our children and young people from future addiction."

News media contact: Kathy L. Gilbert, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or

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Jim Winkler: "It will protect our children."

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