Gambling, taxes and sin

NOTE: Please see addendum at bottom of this post.

The N.C. Education Lottery, and the way in which it was established by the State of North Carolina, will be the subject of a state Supreme Court case.

According to the Charlotte Observer, a N.C. Appellate Court ruled March 18 that the lottery was legally instituted. The debate stems from how the lottery should have been established, whether the lottery is considered a “tax” from the state and if the original Lottery Act was a “revenue bill.”

From the Christian Action League (I’ll get to more of what they say in a minute):

“We are disappointed that the Appeals Court didn’t choose to hold the Legislature accountable for following the Constitution,” said Tami Fitzgerald, attorney for the North Carolina Family Policy Council, one of a number of plaintiffs in the case first filed in December 2005.


The San Juan Cellular test (San Juan Cellular Telephone Co. v. Public Service Commission of Puerto Rico), the prevailing test to determine whether an assessment is a tax, calls for the consideration of three primary factors: (1) the entity that imposes the assessment; (2) the parties upon whom the assessment is imposed; and (3) whether the assessment is expended for general public purposes, or used for the regulation or benefit of the parties upon whom it is imposed.

In her dissenting opinion, Judge Ann Marie Calabria applied the test to the 35 percent of the net revenues allocated to the state by the Lottery Act. She noted that the General Assembly imposed the assessment; the assessment is imposed on every purchaser of a lottery ticket, thus a broad class of parties; and that the purpose of the assessment is to raise revenue for education, a “general public purpose” — all factors that make the Lottery Act a tax.

She also said the Lottery Act qualifies as a revenue bill because by selling lottery tickets, the State is “contracting with purchasers for the opportunity to have a claim for State revenues,” without setting aside an “exclusive revenue stream from which they are to be paid.” In essence, a lottery winner could lay claim to state funds outside the lottery monies, since the money is part of the state’s general fund. These factors, Calabria points out, show that the lottery is raising revenue on the credit of the state and that the Lottery Act pledges the faith of the state for payment of debt.

If the Lottery Act was indeed a “revenue bill,” the way in which it was passed would have required different legislative processes and requirements.

But I suspect that the real reason for the N.C. Family Policy Council and Christian Action League’s objections to the lottery have nothing to do with taxes or revenue. In fact, their objections might just be one more attempt to impose their stringent, fundamentalist beliefs on all citizens of the state — similar to their longings for our pretty much dead-in-the-water marriage amendment.

Again, from the Christian Action League, written by Executive Director Mark Creech (a very polite gentleman, by the way):

It produces an incredible challenge for Christian activists like me, who are determined to do what we can to keep gambling interest from succeeding in our state.


Nevertheless, whether it’s buying a lottery ticket or playing the numbers at a roulette table, every time a Christian gambles, a grievous sin is committed. “Surely not,” someone responds, “I thought gambling was only a sin if you let it develop into a problem.” Hardly! To say gambling is a sin only if it develops into a compulsion is like saying watching pornography is wrong only if it results in an addiction. Gambling is always sinful because it emanates from a spiritual motive God summarily rejects.

There we have it folks. No gambling in North Carolina because the Christian Action League says so. That is really all the reason you need.

But, on a serious note, I am going to read more about the issue of gambling. I know I was taught it was a sin when I was growing up, but I want to know the real reasons why. At the conservative, independent Baptist church of my youth I was told gambling was a sin because the Roman soldiers “cast lots” at Jesus’ feet, while he was on the cross. I doubt that is the real reason.

The Christian Action League breaks the issue down, for their purposes at least, but I’ll take some time to look further. For me, simply saying “That is sin,” and providing no reason why, really isn’t good enough. Even God Himself gave people the reasons why many of his rules were set into place. Some good examples (the “reasons why” in bold):

(Exodus 20:4) You shall not make for yourself an idol, whether in the form of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.

(5) You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, punishing children for the iniquity of parents, to the third and the fourth generation of those who reject me.

(8) Remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy.

(9) For six days you shall labour and do all your work.

(10) But the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God; you shall not do any work—you, your son or your daughter, your male or female slave, your livestock, or the alien resident in your towns.

(11) For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but rested the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and consecrated it.

(12) Honor your father and your mother, so that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.

God really is an intellectual, you know. He isn’t just some parent who always says, “Because I told you so.” Sometimes He gives us the reasons. Other times, I believe, He calls us to understand Him further, and to seek the truth ourselves.

So… I’m going to ask God why. Not in a disrespectful way, but in a genuine, truth-seeking way. I want to understand God, and exactly the reasons why gambling is sin. And, if it is sin, I still believe the state has no business thinking about that. Good Christians – myself included – can abstain from sin. We don’t need the state to do it for us. Be of the world, not in it, remember?

ADDENDUM: From the Rev. Mark Creech, president of the Christian Action League of North Carolina: “I thought that the last piece you did about the Christian Action League’s opposition to the lottery was unfair. If you think we should be fair, then that same standard should also apply to you. You noted in your article that I had said the reason people shouldn’t gamble is because the Christian Action League said so and factiously you added that should be reason enough. Nonsense! The article stated clearly the reason people shouldn’t gamble was because it emanated and fostered a spirit of covetousness, which is a violation of the tenth commandment. I don’t think the article could have been any clearer.”

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  1. […] of fairness, I’m posting the following communication I received from Rev. Creech, concerning my post on gambling and sin: I thought that the last piece you did about the Christian Action League’s opposition to the […]

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