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Crime concerns dominate Jamaican synod: The Church of England Newspaper, April 14, 2013, p 7. April 16, 2013

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Church of the Province of the West Indies, Corruption, Crime, Gambling.
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The Bishop of Jamaica has denounced his government’s slow response to a lottery scam that has defrauded thousands of elderly Americans, saying it was symptomatic of the breakdown of law and order in the West Indies.

In his presidential address to the Diocese of Jamaica and the Cayman Islands at the 143rd annual meeting of Synod held at St Ann’s Bay parish church, Bishop Howard Gregory said the “system of justice needs to become a primary focus of attention.”

“As a nation we are being called to repentance with a consequent change of action in relation to the blood of our young men and our women and children which is being shed daily in our country by criminal elements, but just as significant in the resolution of domestic disputes.”

The Bishop condemned the government for permitting the sale of lottery tickets on Sunday. He noted that the legislation passed during holy week led him to ask “whether this is an expression of gross insensitivity or a statement concerning the way forward for the relationship between church and society”.

He also took the government to task for not moving to stop the “Jamaican lottery scam” until the U.S. Senate began hearings on the crimes.

A report by CBS reported that in 2012 over 29,000 lottery scam complaints were filed with American police agencies. Posing as representatives of Publishers Clearinghouse and other lottery and sweepstakes firms, the scammers would tell elderly Americans that they had won a cash prize but first needed to make a tax payment before the money would be released. The Jamaican-based fraud had taken in tens of millions of dollars, prosecutors have alleged.

“After seven years of public awareness of the lottery scam, our Government has only managed to table anti-scamming legislation and talk tough at the very moment when the United States Senate was holding a [Senate] hearing on the scam in Jamaica,” Bishop Gregory said.

The government’s failure to act did nothing to combat Jamaica’s reputation as a den of crime and corruption. “The way we are presenting ourselves to the world in terms of our moral values as a nation calls for serious repentance on the part of citizens and political leaders as a whole,” he said.

The willingness also of ordinary Jamaicans to countenance the lottery scam told the world “we have some very skewed moral values.”

Australian Anglican Indulgences: Get Religion, April 3, 2013 April 3, 2013

Posted by geoconger in Anglican Church of Australia, Gambling, Get Religion, Press criticism.
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An Australian bishop’s veto of a gaming industry proposal to donate funds to a church social service agency to hire additional gambling addiction counselors has been met with incredulity by the Sunday Telegraph.

In a story entitled “Unholy fight over gaming as Bishop refuses money from clubs” the Sydney-based newspaper’s editorial voice spoils an otherwise interesting story. It does not appear to comprehend that the Anglican Bishop of Armidale Rick Lewers is taking a moral stand that the gaming industry cannot buy redemption.

This is not a bad article in that there is an attempt to present both sides of the story. We do hear from the bishop and the casinos — but the context is missing and the story framed so as to paint the bishop as a prig. The article begins:

A BISHOP has refused thousands of dollars from clubs to pay for more counsellors to help problem gamblers.

Clubs around Tamworth and Armidale, in the state’s north, want the local Anglicare counselling service to put on extra staff as demand grows across the region. After nearly two years of talks, the clubs have agreed to give a percentage of their takings – up to $30,000 a year – in return for access to additional counsellors. However, the talks unravelled last week after the Anglican Bishop of Armidale, Rick Lewers, canned the idea as he felt it would compromise his ability to speak out about gambling.

Instead, Bishop Lewers wants gamblers to consider joining their local church to socialise instead of spending hours “pouring pension money” into poker machines.

The construction of the lede determines the trajectory of the article. Proposition A holds that clubs, private gaming establishments, have created a need for gambling addiction counseling services. Proposition B is that these counseling services are provided by Anglicare– a church-run social services agency.

Fact A is the news that the casinos and Anglicare have been in talks about providing addiction counseling services and that the casinos would donate “up to $30,000 a year”. Fact B is the bishop’s refusal to take the funds. Fact C is the explanation that the Bishop believes he would be compromised by taking casino money.

Assertion A by the Telegraph is that the bishop does not want to help gamblers and B he wants to steer them away from casinos so that they may join “their local church to socialize”.

Standing in back all of this are the assumptions that the casino industry can atone for its sins by giving money to the church — Australian Anglican indulgences — and that the church should be a good sport and take the cash. The implications of the construction of the lede are that the bishop is opposed to a good deed because of petty concerns about pumping up church attendance — perhaps pulling in the punters to the church hall for bingo rather than have them use the slot machine at the casino.

The Telegraph does give the bishop three paragraphs to explain his position — that gambling is a social evil; the church’s social service agency will help anyone with a gambling addiction problem; the church would welcome the opportunity to minister to those with gambling problems on casino grounds; taking money from the casinos — who facilitate the addiction — in order for the church to help them break the gambling addiction is morally compromising. Well and good.

The article then moves to comments from the casino industry criticizing the bishop’s moral qualms. It then closes with a jab from a casino executive that seeks to puncture when he believes to be the bishop’s moral pomposity.

ClubsNSW CEO Anthony Ball said: “The real losers here are the people who have a problem with gambling or alcohol who would have really benefited from the range of initiatives .”

By crafting the article in this fashion — premise, assertion, side a, side b — the Telegraph is telegraphing its agreement with side b’s closing statement from the casino executive.

A church complaining about an unfriendly article that treats its leaders as moral humbugs for standing on an unfashionable principle (gambling is socially harmful and, oh yes, a sin) is neither new nor extraordinary. What is exceptional about this story is the unsubstantiated assertion that the Bishop wants people to go to church not casinos to socialize. Nor does the Telegraph seem to comprehend that it is reporting on an issue present in literature, the movies and in newspapers across the globe. American readers may remember the New York Times report last year about Mexican churches and the drug cartels.

There was an opportunity to tell a great story here — but lack of knowledge and prejudice prevented that from happening.

First printed at Get Religion

Doping scandal rocks Australian sport: The Church of England Newspaper, February 24, 2013, p 7. March 18, 2013

Posted by geoconger in Anglican Church of Australia, Church of England Newspaper, Crime, Gambling.
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A report released last week by the Australian Crime Commission (ACC) that found “widespread” use of performance enhancing drugs by athletes, match-fixing and links between sport and organized crime has prompted the Anglican Church to call for a ban on sports gambling.

On 8 Feb 2013 Bishop Phillip Huggins, chairman of the Diocese of Melbourne Social Affairs Committee said a moratorium on betting on major sports, including football, rugby and cricket, should be considered by the government.

A suspension of sports betting would give the leagues time to “complete the clean-up now under way, and would remove any possibility that the winter games of the [Australian Football League] and [National Rugby League] would attract unsavoury speculation.”

At a 7 Feb 2013 Canberra press conference, Home Affairs Minister Jason Clare said “multiple athletes from a number of clubs in major Australian sporting codes are suspected of currently using or having previously used peptides, potentially constituting anti-doping rule violations”.

“It’s cheating but it’s worse than that, it’s cheating with the help of criminals,” he said.

The 47-page report found “clear parallels” between doping amongst Australian athletes and the case of cyclist Lance Armstrong. These links underscored “the trans-national threat posed by doping to professional sport,” the report said with the “difference” that “Australian threat is current”, covers multiple sports and “is evolving.”

Mr. Claire added that “links between organised crime and players exposes players to the risk of being co-opted for match-fixing and this investigation has identified one possible example of that and that is currently under investigation.”

No names were mentioned in the ACC’s report, Mr. Clare said, as police investigations were on-going.

The “alleged linkages between organised crime and sport require a strong united response aimed at restoring integrity,” Bishop Huggins said, adding “the word ‘play’ is used in relation to sporting ‘games’. These words speak of an innocence and integrity we all want to recover, both in sport and in our community.”

Voter apathy is the death of democracy Bahamian bishop warns: The Church of England Newspaper, February 3, 2013 p 7. February 5, 2013

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Church of the Province of the West Indies, Gambling.
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The democratic process is more important to civil society than the outcome of any election, the Anglican Bishop in Nassau said on Sunday, as he urged Bahamians to go to the polls this week and make their voice heard in the country’s gambling referendum. The Rt. Rev. Laish Boyd, Bishop of the Bahamas and Turks & Caicos Islands, said that while the church opposed gambling, it would not tell people how to vote.

“At this junction it is not important to focus on who will vote ‘yes’ and who will note ‘no’, since persons are entitled to their considered position on the subject, and since people will form and hold their own opinions,” the bishop said.

The “issue now is citizen participation,” Bishop Boyd said. “I call on every registered voter to go out and to vote on Monday, January 28.”

Tourists are permitted to gamble in the island’s casinos, but no legal form of gambling is allowed for Bahamians. However, an illegal but widespread lottery known as the numbers or policy is popular across the islands. A common form of gambling in urban America before the legalization of state lotteries, in the numbers game a gambler places a bet with a bookie in a betting parlor (most often bars, barbershops and other semi-public venues)  hoping to select the winning three digit number drawn at random.

The bishop said the diocese “does not support the legalization of the numbers business. This remains our position since stated publicly in 2010 and before that.”

But he was also concerned about voter apathy. “Some people have concluded that they will stay out of the process,” Bishop Boyd said. “This is wrong because your vote is important.”

“We are blessed in this country with many freedoms, e.g., freedom of religion, association and expression, the freedom to hold and to express different opinions and the privilege of free and fair elections,” the bishop said.

“Make sure you fulfill your national responsibility by casting your ballot in the referendum.”

While a few prominent pastors have called for the legalization of the numbers game, the Bahamian Christian Council has urged the country to vote “no” to the proposal that supporters say would raise revenue for the government and take the numbers game out of the hands of criminals. Church leaders, including Bishop Boyd, have urged voters to say “no”, saying the financial rewards to the state of gambling are outweighed by the social and moral costs it imposes on the people.

Buddhists behaving badly: Get Religion, May 12, 2012 May 12, 2012

Posted by geoconger in Buddhism, Gambling, Get Religion, Press criticism.
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Hypocrisy sells newspapers.

This is a conclusion I have drawn in my years as a religion reporter. Story proposals on a new doctrinal development or a report on a major church conference seldom excites the interest of an editor. [A story proposal about doctrinal development discussed at a conference in Canada is the kiss of death].

But if I can work in an angle about church leaders behaving badly, it may generate a return phone call. And if there is hypocrisy involved I’m just about home. I’ve even found that a long time staple of mine — the naughty vicar story — no longer generates the same level of interest. Sex does not sell by itself. You need an element of hypocrisy in the story to close the deal with a commissioning editor.

All of which brings me to a great story from The Korea Times. While there is no sex, it has the next best thing: monks behaving badly.

Here is the lede from the article entitled from the 11 May 2012 story “Jogye Order in disarray over gambling monks”:

The leadership of Jogye, the nation’s largest Buddhist order, is being thrown into question following the disclosure Thursday of a video clip showing monks gambling, drinking and smoking in a hotel room.

The monks were seen playing poker with hundreds of millions of won, which is believed to be from donations from believers.

Many within and outside the Buddhist circle sees the case as only the tip of the iceberg, saying the government must take action to address corrupt practices in religious groups. Some activists urged the government to introduce a “tax on religion” in a bid to make their spending of donations and expenditure transparent.

Behind the revelation is an internal conflict between the head of the Jogye Order, Ven. Jaseung, and his critics.

The article lays out the disputes within the Jogye Order, which have led to lawsuits between the various factions (Who says Episcopalians have all the fun in suing each other?) And reports that the leader of the Jogye Order has issued an apology for the actions of his worldly clerics.

We deeply apologize for the behavior of several monks in our order. The monks who have caused public concern are currently being investigated and will be punished according to Buddhist regulations as soon as the truth is verified by the prosecution,” said Ven. Jaseung in a statement.

He added that his order will conduct a 108-bows ritual for 100 days starting next Tuesday to repent the misbehavior of the monks.

The Korea Times also reports on how the film of the monks made it into the public eye. It reported that the leader of the dissident faction within the Jogye Order gave the film clip to government prosecutors after he “found a USB drive containing the footage on the floor of his temple.”

I give the Korea Times great credit for playing the article straight. Imagine what another newspaper whose name contains the word “Times” would do with this story about hypocrisy in top religious leaders coupled with a extraordinary explanation of how the tape came into the possession of the dissident faction. He might as well have said it fell off the back of a truck.

The article closes with a comment from an advocate for the reform of the Buddhist orders who states:

“In Europe, religions pay taxes to the government on donations from believers and that money is redistributed to religious groups. In Korea, there’s no such system so temples or churches are not properly monitored. It’s not like the monks make money out of farming or any other work. So basically all the money comes from donations,” said Chung.

“The Jogye Order and its monks must make their financial affairs transparent and rethink the role of Buddhism in society.”

All in all this was a great article. There were opportunities galore to be cynical or to advance an agenda, but The Korea Times allowed the facts to tell the story, provided the context of the internal feuds within the Jongye Order, and closed with a note about the scandals relevance to the Korean religious scene. No hyperbole — just solid reporting. Well done.

As this article was written for an English-speaking Korean audience, or for resident foreigners in Korea, there was one angle that is not mentioned in the story that would have been helpful for a foreign reader. Is gambling, smoking and drinking problematic for Jogye Order monks? One can deduce that this is so, but it isn’t spelled out in full.

This is not a problem for a Korean newspaper as the answer would likely be self-evident in a Korean context. However, this issue leads me to a deeper journalistic issue. It begins with the question as to whether there are universal human norms of moral conduct. Couched in journalistic terms — should a reporter assume that an action that is regarded as bad behavior in the West be labeled a bad behavior when it occurs in the non-Western world? In the Christian, or post-Christian, or Jude0-Christian West hypocrisy is regarded as sinful, or bad conduct. Can we assume that this is so in non-Western cultures?

In this particular case, the Western conception of bad behavior is in line with the Buddhist, both have clearly defined standards of ethical conduct. In the Simile of the Cloth, the Buddha lists the sixteen defilements of the mind of which number 9, maya, is hypocrisy:

1. Thus have I heard. Once the Blessed One was staying at Savatthi, in Jeta’s Grove, Anathapindika’s monastery. There he addressed the monks thus: “Monks.” — “Venerable sir,” they replied. The Blessed One said this:

2. “Monks, suppose a cloth were stained and dirty, and a dyer dipped it in some dye or other, whether blue or yellow or red or pink, it would take the dye badly and be impure in color. And why is that? Because the cloth was not clean. So too, monks, when the mind is defiled, an unhappy destination [in a future existence] may be expected.

“Monks, suppose a cloth were clean and bright, and a dyer dipped it in some dye or other, whether blue or yellow or red or pink, it would take the dye well and be pure in color. And why is that? Because the cloth was clean. So too, monks, when the mind is undefiled, a happy destination [in a future existence] may be expected.

3. “And what, monks, are the defilements of the mind? (1) Covetousness and unrighteous greed are a defilement of the mind; (2) ill will is a defilement of the mind; (3) anger is a defilement of the mind; (4) hostility…(5) denigration…(6) domineering…(7) envy…(8) jealousy…(9) hypocrisy…(10) fraud…(11) obstinacy…(12) presumption…(13) conceit…(14) arrogance…(15) vanity…(16) negligence is a defilement of the mind.

4. “Knowing, monks, covetousness and unrighteous greed to be a defilement of the mind, the monk abandons them …

There are hypocritical Buddhists just as there are hypocritical Christians, but the way this hypocrisy works itself out has different theological connotations. Shallow Buddhists have not renounced their selfish desires. Shallow Christians have not surrendered their lives to Christ’s authority.

While Western and Buddhist ethical standards matched up in this instance, they do not always do so — nor do the ethical constructs of other thought or religious systems always line up with Christian or Jewish moral teachings. If a reporter does not address this issue, is he not guilty of some form of imperialistic thinking? Is he not saying “the world operates according to my culture’s norms and shall be judged by my standards”?

In writing a story of less than 500 words a reporter is not given the opportunity to speculate on the nature of truth. Should he not then have a line in a story that states why a particular behavior offends in non-Western cultures? Or, is this stating the obvious? Or, are there non-negotiable moral norms that are present through out humanity?

What say you GetReligion readers? What is truth and where can it be found?

First printed in GetReligion.

Adelaide push for gambling controls: The Church of England Newspaper, March 16, 2012 p 6. March 21, 2012

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The Archbishop of Adelaide, Dr. Jeffrey Driver, has called upon the Australian Federal government to institute a one dollar bet limit on computer poker machines.

“A $1 maximum bet, with losses limited to $120 an hour has the potential to reduce the great harm problem gamblers can do to themselves and those who are close to them,” Dr. Driver said on 8 March 2012.

In January church leaders denounced Prime Minister Julia Gillard after she backed away from a pledge to tighten regulations on “pokies”.

The chairman of the Melbourne Anglican Social Responsibilities Committee, Bishop Philip Huggins said the prime minister “did not just break her promise” to her political allies, “she broke it with the coalition of groups who then lent their support to these reforms. She broke it too with those problem gamblers who bravely spoke in public about their plight, hoping their support of the reforms might give some meaning to their suffering and that of their families,” the bishop said.

Dr. Driver noted that “about a third” of regular pokie users had a problem with gambling addiction. “Nearly 100,000 Australians lose more than $20,000 a year through their poker machine habit. For every problem gambler there are many others affected; families, children, friends and co-workers. The human price is too high.”

“Polling has consistently shown that Australians support the introduction of measures to mitigate the harm of problem gambling. Apart from the government, Church agencies provide about 70 per cent of the caring services in Australia, so we are well placed to speak about the damage done to individuals and families across our country by poker machine addiction,” Dr. Driver said.

First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.

Bishop denounces govt u-turn on gambling reform: The Church of England Newspaper, January 27, 2012 p 6. February 2, 2012

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Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard and the Queen

First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.

Church leaders in Australia have denounced Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s u-turn on poker gambling machines, saying her decision to back away from plans to tighten regulations on “pokies” was a “serious moral” failing that would sapped the people’s trust in government.

The chairman of the Melbourne Anglican Social Responsibilities Committee, Bishop Philip Huggins said the prime minister “did not just break her promise” to independent Tasmanian MHR Andrew Wilkie to implement reforms to address problem gambling.

“She broke it with the coalition of groups who then lent their support to these reforms. She broke it too with those problem gamblers who bravely spoke in public about their plight, hoping their support of the reforms might give some meaning to their suffering and that of their families,” the bishop said.

On 21 January 2012 the prime minister reneged upon her agreement with Mr. Wilkie to implement timely reforms to address problem gambling.  In 2010 Mr. Wilkie agreed to support the government in parliament in return for the government’s support of recommendations proposed by the government’s Productivity Commission to address problem gambling.

However, the prime minister’s Labor Party has come under pressure from the gambling industry to loosen the proposed restrictions.  The November election of Peter Slipper as speaker of the house gave Labor an additional vote, loosening Mr. Wilkie’s value as a vote in support of the government’s majority.

The dispute between the prime minister and Mr. Wilkie centers round bet limits and loss or pre-commitment limits for machines.  Mr. Wilkie had urged the government adopt mandatory pre-commitment limits for gambling machines which would set binding limits on losses and the time gamblers spent playing on a single machine. The government’s new plan is to adopt trial of the pre-commitment system but without any bet limits.

Opponents of the gambling machines noted that the government’s proposals, which would come into effect in 2017 avoided the issue.  Critics charged that problem gamblers are unable to set limits when in the midst of their addictions and chase their losses, incurring substantial losses.

Bishop Huggins said the proposed reforms were “sensible proposals to assist problem gamblers manage their addiction and put them on the path to healing and freedom.”

But the prime minister’s decision to break her promise also spoke to a deeper issue as when “confidence in a Government’s trustworthiness is shaken by broken promises, people withdraw and civil society is depleted.

“At its extreme, we see this now in the bitterness of citizens towards their Government in parts of Europe and the Middle East,” the bishop said, urging the prime minister to “return to her original agreement” and “endorse these reforms.”

Casino outreach to problem gamblers questioned by archbishop: The Church of England Newspaper, June 17. 2011 p 9. June 19, 2011

Posted by geoconger in Anglican Church of Australia, Church of England Newspaper, Gambling.
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A publicity photo of the Las Vegas act, the Flying Elvi

First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

Holding a responsible gambling forum at a casino was an unseemly way to address problem gambling, the Archbishop of Melbourne said last week, after Crown Casino hosted a week long programme to help problem gamblers.  However, the casino charged Dr. Philip Freier with speaking out of ignorance, saying he knew nothing of the casino’s social outreach work.

On June 1, the Herald Sun newspaper reported on the forum, and highlighted the work of the casino’s chaplain, Anglican minister the Rev. James Grant.

Mr. Grant stated that problem gambling was not the fault of the casino industry, but arose from the belief in fate held by many gamblers.  He was quoted as saying that “an increasing number of patrons believe that luck is on their side, that they have a God-given right to win today.”

“In our society luck has become a new secular deity,” Mr. Grant told the Herald Sun, adding that “we are people who believe that it is possible to get something for nothing, that our lives are in the grip of fate rather than our own responsibility. None of this is Crown’s doing.”

While Mr. Grant appears to be the only Anglican chaplain with a casino cure, his position is not unique.  In Las Vegas the Riviera Hotel and Casino employed a full time chaplain on its staff for over 20 years.  The Rev. Charles Bolin, who died in September 2010 while serving as a reserve chaplain with the US Air Force, provided pastoral and spiritual support to the casino’s 2000 employees and held Sunday services in the Crazy Girls showroom for tourists.

Until his death, Mr. Bolin ministered to the Vegas strip’s card dealers and cocktail waitresses, gamblers and prostitutes, held Bible studies for topless dancers and prayed backstage and offered pastoral council to performers ranging from Johnny Cash to the Flying Elvises.

In its literature, Crown Casino states that it too offers chaplaincy services to those of “all religious beliefs and traditions. The Chaplaincy Support Service enables people to seek guidance and peace in their own way and aims to be relevant to the particular problems and life situations of the individual.”

Dr Freier responded that the “choice of a gambling venue for a high-profile event in Responsible Gambling Awareness Week can easily send a confusing signal.”

In 2009 the Melbourne archbishop led the charge to block Good Friday gambling at race courses and has long spoken out against the social ills gambling produces.  “From the State Government to community organisations that operate gaming machines to a large venue like Crown casino, it is hard to see how those who profit from gambling have any interest in persuading people away from a reliance on gambling,” Dr. Freier said.

However, a spokesman for the casino told the Herald Sun Dr. Freier was ignorant of the good work the casino did for its problem gamblers.

If Dr. Freier “had any real interest in assisting people who have problems with gambling he should realise that it takes more effort than simply standing on the sidelines and slinging mud at something he knows nothing about,” said casino spokesman Gary O’Neil said.

“I am not aware the archbishop has stirred himself even slightly to try to find out the good and effective work that is being done,” the spokesman said.

However, in March the Australian Churches Gambling Taskforce was launched to address the estimated $4.7 billion social cost of problem gambling.

Statistics compiled by church social service agencies have found that up to 30 per cent of those who gamble regularly have problems with gambling—a ratio of harm that called out for tighter government regulation the task force told government leaders.

Church protests over proposed Ulster gambling laws: The Church of England Newspaper, March 4, 2011 p 6. March 9, 2011

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Church of Ireland, Gambling.
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Ulster Social Development Minister Alex Attwood

First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

The Church of Ireland has urged the government of Northern Ireland to reject plans to allow high street bookie offices to open on Sundays.

Last week the Social Development Minister for Northern Ireland Alex Attwood announced plans to liberalise the province’s gambling laws.  In 2003 gambling at Sunday race meetings and internet gambling was permitted.  The minister stated he wanted the new law to reflect people’s leisure habits and bring the province’s laws into conformity with gambling regulations in Britain and the Republic of Ireland.

“My priority will be the public interest; striking a balance between developing gambling as a leisure pursuit and minimising its harmful effects. These have been the standards I have adopted and am adopting in regulating other industries including the drinks industry and the shops trade,” Mr. Attwood said”

Paddy Power, which offers betting shops in and around Belfast, told the Irish Times it would be “a great supporter” of these changes.

However, the Church of Ireland’s Social Responsibility Board on March 1 stated it was “dismayed” by the proposals.

Treating “Sundays, Christmas day and Easter day like any other day of the week” would be a moral “affront” to Ulster, and would further fuel Northern Ireland’s addiction to gambling.

Suggestions that Sunday gambling would boost the economy were unproven, the Board said.

However, there was “evidence from his own department” that showed the rate of problem gambling in Northern Ireland was four times that of Britain, and that the number of those afflicted by problem gambling had risen 25 per cent since the laws were liberalized in 2003.

“If this increase was to be repeated in Northern Ireland it could see the number of problem gamblers rise by around 10,000 in 3 years,” the Church of Ireland said, noting that it was “difficult to understand the Minister’s statement that his priority is the public interest and minimising the harmful effects of gambling when the evidence from his own department suggests this proposal will be doing the opposite.”

Jamaica church leaders angry over gambling changes: CEN 10.02.09 p 8. October 5, 2009

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Church of the Province of the West Indies, Gambling.
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Church leaders in Jamaica have denounced government plans to approve horse racing on Sundays, saying gambling will harm the poor and debase society’s morals.

The president of the Jamaica Association of Evangelicals called the decision to allow Sunday racing at Caymanas Park in November “appalling.” “It is a shame we are heading in this direction,” Peter Garth said at Sept 18 press conference. “Gambling is an anti-social and non-productive activity, no matter on which day it occurs,” that Anglican Bishop of Jamaica Alfred Reid charged in an article published in the Gleaner on Sept 28.

Jamaica church leaders angry over gambling changes

“The problem with Sunday racing” was that it “adds to an already existing situation. It extends something that should rather be curtailed,” he argued, as the “gambling industry is one of the most effective means of transferring money from the poor to the rich.

“It is a cynical manipulation of the desperation of the poor who are conned into risking the little that they have in the hope of winning big,” he said. In a bid to boost the flagging tourism industry, the Jamaican government has discussed allowing casinos to open in the resort areas of Montego Bay and Trelawny to win over gamblers from the Bahamas and other Caribbean tourist spots. Last week the Finance Ministry announced that Sunday racing would begin on Nov 29. Currently racing takes place on Wednesdays and Saturdays.

Bishop Reid said the Church had not been able to “stop the lottery, the casino, the proliferation of so-called gambling parlours.”

He added that “not even the Government” could have stopped it, as “we know who really wields power in Jamaica. Not the elected government, but the people who control money and who, in pursuit of material wealth, will crush anyone who dares to resist.”

The bishop responded to charges of “hypocrisy” launched against the church by gambling supporters, saying they “may be true, since we aspire to a humanly unattainable ideal. However, in this case, the real hypocrisy is the pretence to have an open and democratic society in which all views contend while, at the same time, seeking to silence the Church and any other person with a contrary view.”

Critics had charged the church had “overstepped its bounds by objecting to the extension of gambling in this way,” Bishop Reid said. However the “clear implication” of this sort of attack was that the powerful have the “authority to decide the scope and boundaries of the Church’s sphere of activity.”

The pro-gambling campaign was a “non-too-subtle anti-church and anti-Christian campaign,” Bishop Reid charged, urging the government to turn back from its shortsighted alliance with the gambling industry.

Australian primate calls for action on poker machines: CEN 10.17.08 p 8. October 19, 2008

Posted by geoconger in Anglican Church of Australia, Church of England Newspaper, Gambling.
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The Primate of the Anglican Church of Australia has joined the call for a government crackdown on video poker machines.

On Oct 7 Archbishop Phillip Aspinall told a community forum in Brisbane the impact of “pokies” on Australian families had been “devastating.” He urged government action to regulate electronic gambling machines, saying that up to 120,000 Queenslanders had become addicted to gambling.

The archbishop’s remarks mirror concerns presented by leaders of the Diocese of Melbourne in testimony before a government committee last month. Speaking to the Victoria senate on Sept 11 representatives of Anglicare Victoria and Melbourne’s Social Responsibilities Committee (SRC) told a government panel investigating problem gambling, that video poker machines “pokies” had had a corrosive effect on society, and urged the government to impose strict regulations on the use and distribution of the machines.

In his remarks to a Brisbane community forum called to discuss problem gambling and pokies, Archbishop Aspinall suggested the first step should be a “staged significant reduction in the number of poker machines in licensed venues.”

However he rejected calls from anti-gambling campaigners for a ban on pokies, saying there should be a debate on limiting the machines to casinos, and getting “them out of pubs and clubs.”

“It may be a staged reduction that needs to take place, so government can adjust its budget to cope with the reduced revenue and so that people who are in business in pubs and clubs can also adjust their business to the shift,” he said according to local newspaper accounts.

Over the past decade Australia has seen a sharp rise in problem gambling, a trend critics charge is coupled with the widespread use of pokies in pubs, clubs and other public venues. The Australian Bureau of Statistics reports the total takings from gambling during 2004-05 was A$15.5 billion, with pokies providing A$8.7 billion or 56.3% of total net takings from gambling.

Norwegian fraud inquiry could topple bishop: CEN 9.28.08 September 28, 2008

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Church of Norway, Crime, Gambling.
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A multi-million pound fraud scheme may topple a Norwegian bishop from office and land his son in jail, the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation (NRK) reports. A warrant was issued last week for the arrest of Bjarte Baasland, son of the Rt. Rev. Ernst Baasland (pictured), the Church of Norway’s Bishop of Stavangar.

Bjarte Baasland is accused of bilking investors of £5.75 million, claiming the money was for an internet start-up company. However, the funds were allegedly diverted to pay gambling debts from losses he incurred playing on internet gaming sites.

The bishop filed for bankruptcy on Sept 11 declaring debts of £1.6 million in guarantees to investors in his son’s company. “The bishop has been granted two-and-a-half weeks leave of absence from his job,” Minister of Church Affairs, Trond Giske, said after the bishop filed the bankruptcy petition.

Read it all in The Church of England Newspaper.

Norwegian fraud inquiry could topple bishop

Australian church leaders in call for action on slot machines: CEN 9.20.08 September 20, 2008

Posted by geoconger in Anglican Church of Australia, Church of England Newspaper, Gambling, Politics, Popular Culture.
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Church leaders in Melbourne, Australia, have urged the government to adopt a hard line towards computer gambling, saying the proliferation of electronic poker machines in low-income communities has fostered “harm and dysfunction” amongst the poor.

In testimony before the Victoria senate on Sept 11 representatives of Anglicare Victoria and the Diocese of Melbourne’s Social Responsibilities Committee (SRC) told a government panel investigation the social effects of video poker machines that the proliferation of the devices had had a corrosive effect on society. They urged the government to impose strict regulations on the use and distribution of the machines.

Read it all in The Church of England Newspaper.

Australian church leaders in call for action on slot machines

Jamaica casino plan attacked: CEN 5.18.08 May 19, 2008

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Church of the Province of the West Indies, Gambling, Politics.
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PLANS TO legalise casino gambling have come under sharp criticism from the Church in Jamaica.

In a presentation of the government’s budget to Parliament in Kingston last week, Prime Minister Bruce Golding argued casino gambling would bring jobs, tourists and revenues to the island. However the Bishop of Jamaica, the Rt Rev and Hon Alfred Reid, along with leaders of the Council of Churches and the Evangelical Association have condemned the move, saying it would be “socially destructive” and hasten the island’s moral decline.

Jamaica casino plan attacked

Read it all in The Church of England Newspaper.

Gambling survey finds problem gambling is stabilising: CEN 9.28.07 p 5. September 30, 2007

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Gambling, House of Lords, Popular Culture.
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national-lottery.gifOver a quarter of a million people are addicted to gambling, a government report has found. The Gambling Prevalence Survey 2007 found that those hooked on gambling numbered over 284,000, while over 68 percent of the population played games of chance last year in Britain.

The study, prepared on behalf of the Gambling Commission, found that 32 million adults had participated in some form of gambling activity within the past year. A similar study in 1999 found that 33 million adults or 72 percent of the population were gamblers.

The most popular form of gambling is the National Lottery draw with 10 million participants or 57% of the population.

Scratchcards (20%), betting on horse races (17%) and playing slot machines (14%) also topped the list, while internet gambling rounded out the top five at 6%.

Problem gamblers were estimated to comprise 0.6% of the adult population, or 284,000 people. The 1999 survey identified 0.5% of the adult population with a gambling problem, or around 236,000 adults.

The British Gambling Prevalence Survey was undertaken by the Gambling Commission to quantify the “nature and scale of gambling in Great Britain.”

“It was commissioned as part of the Gambling Commission’s commitment to the licensing objectives of keeping crime out of gambling, ensuring gambling is conducted fairly and openly, and protecting children and vulnerable people from harm from gambling,” the government said.

However the Rt. Rev David Chillingworth, Bishop of St Andrews, Dunkeld & Dunblane argued the “key message” of the report is that problem gambling had not increased. “This is a complacent statement” he argued as those affected by problem gambling were not just the gamblers, but their families and society as a whole.

“Gambling is now mainstream in British life through the presence of the National Lottery and scratch cards,” he said. “Its presence steadily corrodes the quality of our national life” while the “dream of instant wealth creates empty hopes,” Bishop Chillingworth argued.

“The support of ‘good causes’ is not an adequate justification for institutionalised gambling on this scale. It creates issues of values for voluntary organisations and for churches who are forced to seek funding from the Lottery in spite of their opposition to gambling,” he argued.

On March 28 the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Bishops of Peterborough and Southwell and Nottingham backed Liberal Democrat Lord Clement-Jones in opposing plans for a Manchester super casino, defeating the governments Gambling Order.

Speaking in the House Dr. Williams said his “unease” with the Gambling bill was with the “sleight of hand by which the whole business of the gambling industry has become coupled with the regeneration theme in ways which-I have to be candid-I find quite baffling.”

“While it is undoubtedly true statistically that casino gambling represents a relatively small segment of the overall problem of addictive gambling, none the less it represents a significant part and a social factor whose impact on its immediate environment is not restricted to addictive gambling,” he argued in opposition to the bill.