Too many gamble their lives away
Gambling is a cruel illusion that causes social harm and family breakdown and should not be promoted by governments, Cardinal Thomas Collins of Toronto has written in a pastoral letter.
The cardinal is asking the faithful of the Toronto Archdiocese to reflect on the harmful effects of gambling, both in the community at large and in Church activities, before politicians deal out a new casino for the GTA.
As part of an ambitious plan to generate revenue by expanding gambling sites in Ontario, the cash poor provincial government, through the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corp., is pushing for a large casino within the archdiocese, either in downtown Toronto or a surrounding community.
Any economic benefits a new casino may bring will be eclipsed by the social harm that gambling inevitably inflicts on communities, Collins said.
"I am particularly concerned marriages and families will be hurt or even destroyed through greater ease of access to gambling through the construction of yet another large casino," said Collins' letter, distributed in parishes April 27-28.
In his experience as a priest and bishop, Collins said he has "become sadly aware of the grievous suffering experienced by individuals and families because of gambling dependence."
When gambling is widely available and aggressively promoted, it is difficult to convince young people of its ill effects, he added.
It is understandable that governments are tempted by the tax revenues and supposed economic benefits that gambling may generate, Collins said, but the benefits are "far from clear."
Even if there were long-term benefits, Collins believes casinos have a "negative social impact that outweighs such benefits" and they also "have an adverse effect on the vitality and social health of our community."
Gambling is based, he said, on a fantasy of a quick solution to financial problems, and it appeals to "the most vulnerable and the most desperate."
"This is a cruel illusion and it is not wholesome for governments to promote it."
In addition to opposing casinos, Collins is also asking the Catholic community to "look carefully" at its reliance on gambling in fundraising initiatives and to consider if, as a Church, we are "caught up in an unhealthy dependence on gambling that can harm others."
This would include reflection on such activities as lotteries, 50-50 draws and bingos. He has called on Catholic organizations to examine every source of revenue that is connected to gambling.
"If we are engaged in any form of gambling that is likely to cause harm, we should find alternatives as soon as possible," he said. "We must not fund our good works in ways that cause suffering to others."
Collins concludes the letter by asking the Catholic community to think carefully about the casino proposals being debated by politicians and to get involved in the discussion.