Gambling continues to be growing problem

Published 3:16 pm Monday, February 5, 2024

NOTE: This is the first of a two-part series about the danger posed by gambling.

By Chip Hutcheson, Kentucky Today

At least 110 million people are expected to watch Sunday’s Super Bowl. While that would fall short of last year’s record of 114.2 million, sportsbook operators are eyeing a new Super Bowl record for betting on the game. The proliferation of gambling in Kentucky is a great concern for Gene Cole, president and executive director of the Kentucky Ethics League.

Cole, who pastors Corinth Baptist Church in Providence, urged pastors and church leaders to “stand firm and continue to preach against gambling.”

Since the U.S. Supreme Court legalized sports gambling in 2018, 38 states — including Kentucky — have passed legislation enabling some form of betting. Front Office Sports reported that “legal sports betting exploded to unprecedented size and prominence in 2023.”

An informational article by Stop Predatory Gambling pointed out the danger to churches and society in general, noting that two million people in the U.S. are severely addicted to gambling and an estimated 20 million have significant negative impact on work/social/financial lives from their gambling. In churches, one person out of 100 is severely addicted and one of every 16 is facing significant impact from gambling.

“This is probably one of those things that you know it’s there, but you don’t speak out against it because you don’t want to offend people,” Cole noted. “Look at the size of your church — more than likely you do have issues in the church with gambling that you don’t know about. People have it right there on their phones. They (sportsbooks) say they have age restriction in place, but a lot of times all you have to do is push a button.

“At the Kentucky League, we are trying to prevent issues like this so families can stay together. We try to promote a family friendship atmosphere — gambling is an outside problem that is completely avoidable. I don’t have evidence of this, but perhaps there are some people sitting in your church and be on their phone and gambling while you are preaching a sermon against gambling.”

Cole added that is is a “sad commentary on society as a whole that on Christmas Day there was a story published about how calls have nearly tripled to the state’s problem-gambling hotline. There are 73 gambling addiction treatment centers in Kentucky, but the state as a whole has only seven certified gambling counselors.

Cole noted that the gambling problem was part of his sermon Sunday titled, “Who or what are you seeking?” That sermon can be viewed on the church’s Facebook page (corinthbaptistchurch1863).

For pastors and churches seeking help on addressing the gambling issue, the league (formerly called the Kentucky League on Alcohol & Gambling Problems) welcomes the opportunity to speak in person on this issue in Kentucky Baptist churches. Persons wanting a league spokesman are asked to email or call 502-371-9984.

According to Statista, since the Supreme Court legalized sports gambling, “consumers are spending billions of dollars betting on sports via digital platforms, and sportsbooks, media companies and others … are raking in the revenues. If current success in the industry holds up, marketers stand to win big on this growing audience.

CNBC reports that the “growth of online sports betting and casino gaming across the U.S. has led to soaring revenue for sportsbook companies. For instance, DraftKings, which airs TV ads consistently encouraging people to bet, saw its revenue jump 57 percent (to $790 million) for the quarter ending Sept. 30, 2023.

Betting on the Chiefs-49ers game Sunday will not be limited to who wins or loses, or how many points are scored. In most states, people can be on almost anything associated with the game, including whether the opening coin toss is heads or tails or the color of the Gatorade that is used.