The $27.9 billion state budget agreement being finalized by lawmakers includes expanding casino gambling to include table games (card and dice games such as black jack, craps, and roulette). Gambling revenue, according to lawmakers, would help reduce the Commonwealth’s $3 billion shortfall. It could also add thousands of jobs to local economies.
Three of the four legislative caucuses and Gov. Ed Rendell favor legalizing table games. Some organizations, such as the PA Council of Churches and the PA Family Institute are strongly opposed to such expansion. Where does the Catholic church stand?
The Pennsylvania Catholic Conference put forth its position on gambling in a 1995 statement called Expanding Gambling: A Needless Gamble for Pennsylvania or a Good Idea? The statement examines two aspects of any gambling expansion proposal: a theological or moral aspect and a public policy and societal aspect.
Addressing the moral aspect, the statement cites the Catechism of the Catholic Church and notes that “Traditional Catholic teaching maintains that gambling is morally acceptable” so long as certain conditions are met. These conditions include the free participation of those choosing to gambling using money that does not diminish the financial support of family or other “just obligations.” Games should also be operated fairly and their revenue go to support only legal and moral enterprises.
Regarding the societal aspect, the statement says that the potential negative effects of expanded gambling should be carefully evaluated and identifies criteria by which expanded gambling’s potential for harm should be measured. Without care to minimize the dangers of gambling, the bishops say, its expansion should be opposed.
Read Expanding Gambling here.