Rashional Thoughts: Casino gambling operations can’t be the answer

Gordonville Mayor Orbuty Ross Ozier’s comments continue to haunt me days after I heard her share her heart.

“How can we keep surviving in Lowndes County when superiors keep burying us deeper in the ground? We have children, too. We love our community. We need your help,” she pleaded passionately to the members of the Alabama House of Representatives sitting on the House Economic Development and Tourism Committee.

During the committee’s May 4 public hearing on the latest controversial gambling legislation (Senate Bill 319, see story), Ozier spoke against the bill, even though she isn’t necessarily opposed to expanding legalized gambling in the state.

“Stop putting the dirt on top of Lowndes County. Help us continue to grow, continue to strive and continue to do better,” she said. “Shouldn’t we have the opportunity to enjoy life like everyone else?”

It’s important to understand that Ozier’s purpose May 4 was to ask for Lowndes County to be included in the listing of areas that would be allowed to run a casino in the state with the passage of SB 319.

But what struck me as she shared was the tremendous opportunity for missions and ministry available to churches across the state.

Ministry efforts do exist and area churches are working to reach the area.

In fact, a new church plant is finding its footing through partnership efforts, but the need is vast and so many more of us could be finding ways to help.

Lowndes County has a population of about 12,000 and sits between Dallas and Montgomery counties and below Autauga County. About 200 of those citizens reside in Gordonville.

The area struggles economically and with that struggle has come a decade-long dependency on electronic bingo gambling, and various forms of allegedly illegal gambling.

“We would not have the little we do if it had not been for those casinos,” Ozier told the committee, referencing the gambling operations in the area. “Who else is helping us? Who else is helping us keep bread on the table?”

Her statements make me wonder if public officials would be more open to opposing attempts at expanding legalized gambling and take a harder stance against illegal gambling operations in their areas if state leaders would work to develop productive infrastructures and legitimate opportunities for people.

Focusing efforts to help citizens support themselves and be able to make their own positive mark on their community is the true winning bet.

I’m not sure I understand all the ins and outs of why some of our elected officials are consistently drawn to the lure of the gambling industry, but I do know we can make a difference in helping them understand what’s most important to us.

To contact your legislator, visit tabonline.org/contact. To learn about ministry opportunities in Lowndes County, visit mgmbaptists.org.

Variety of interest groups question latest gambling legislation up for potential debate May 17 (SB 319)

“I’m not against gambling … but this is a deeply flawed bill.”
—Gambling industry attorney

“Casinos need to be mandated to pay a minimum no matter how much they take in, not a percentage (because profit figures can be manipulated).”
—Rep. Reed Ingram

“The [bill] has the government picking winners and losers. … It takes the name of a business and embeds it into our constitution.

“This is an amnesty bill for bad actors because of those on that list of names being embedded in our constitution, one is behind on taxes and one or two have been raided by our law enforcement.”

—Phil Williams
Alabama Policy Institute

“Rather than open Alabama to all forms of self-regulated monopolistic gambling, would not the Legislature better serve the people of Alabama by increasing the penalties for gambling and providing the manpower to the attorney general’s office to enforce those laws? Such upgrades in our law would be done by simple statutory enactments.

“SB 319 is not about revenue or regulating gambling. It is about whether elected officials will condone an immoral and destructive activity.”

—A. Eric Johnston
Birmingham attorney

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