Thursday, September 30, 1999, in The State newspaper.
Churches must act & not
watch blacks tithe to poker gods
Will a man rob God?; Yet you have robbed Me! But you say, In what way
have we robbed You?; In tithes and offerings. -- Malachi 3:8
By WARREN BOLTON (an African-American)
I have heard black ministers bemoan the fact that
many of their members have not reached the point where they are willing to tithe to the
"If they'd only give a tenth.. ," the pastors say,
as they talk about the needs of the church.
If black ministers don't get more involved in the
fight to ban video poker, video gambling could ensure that some members and prospective
members will never be able to tithe. A disproportionate number of blacks spend inordinate
amounts of time before poker machines, heads bowed, feeding hard-earned money into the
Sadly, blacks are essentially tithing to this evil
industry. Studies show about 60 percent of video poker players are African-Americans and that
they account for 50 percent or more of the money wagered on video poker.
That means black players feed around $1.4 billion
into the machines, which take in $2.8 billion. Studies show that black buying power in South
Carolina is in the area of $13 billion or so. That means that the amount of money that blacks
put into video poker machines equals a tenth or more of the total disposable income of all
blacks in South Carolina.
Video poker has become a god to some people. That
is god, little "g." Some people have become devout worshipers who visit South Carolina's many
and varied poker shrines -- casinos, convenience stores, bars -- to pay homage to this
Players worship machines daily, many of them
forsaking all: family, friends, children, houses, cars, jobs. Video poker seemingly takes
over their minds and their money.
Too many South Carolinians are sacrificing their
lives and livelihoods on video poker's unholy altar.
While some black church denominations and pastors
-- the AME Zion's, the AMEs and black United Methodist ministers -- have taken strong stands
against video poker, far too many are ambivalent about this devourer. I have talked to many
black churchgoers who say they either are going to vote for video poker or they don't care
what happens with the vote.
There are some churches, black and white, where
pastors are hesitant to address the issue head-on. They fear they might offend members who
gamble or own places that profit from machines.
I wonder how those pastors bring themselves to
preach against lying, fornication, stealing or any other kind of sin.
Rep. Joe Neal, a minister, said he can understand
that some ministers might find the situation an awkward one. However, he said: "Right is
right. It's difficult not to say that a sin is a sin, no matter who is doing
Bishop Joseph Johnson, who presides over the AME
Zion Church's South Atlantic District, said pastors must confront evil. He said if pastors
have people in their congregations who work in the industry in some capacity, they should
still do what is right. "I remind them that people of faith believe that the just shall live
by faith and not by luck."
Black pastors everywhere ought to be concerned
that African-Americans are sinking more than 10 percent of their collective buying power into
poker machines. Many of them may not be churchgoers or born-again Christians, but churches
ought to be worried.
Rep. Neal said it bothers him that 60 percent of
those playing video poker are African-Americans.
"That's worrisome to me. I call it electronic
sharecropping," he said, adding that hard-working black people are throwing their money away
a dollar at a time in poker machines. In the meantime, the nearly 100 percent white ownership
is making the money.
This exploitation must stop, Rep. Neal said.
However, he said, he doesn't see the enthusiasm among ministers needed to get people out to
vote to ban poker. He said the challenge is first educating ministers adequately on the
countless problems video poker causes and then getting them to provide the proper information
to their congregations. The proper mechanisms are not in place to effectively do
There is still a lot of work to be done in
African-American communities. And there is still time. Pastors and church leaders must be
Black voters showed in this past gubernatorial
contest that they can mobilize and influence an election. The question this time around is
whether black voters will turn out for a single-issue referendum. And, if so, how will they
That is why it is important that pastors and
church leaders educate their congregations. They must make the case for voting "No" on Nov.
In the 1994 county-by-county vote on poker, black
voters overwhelmingly supported the industry. That was then, and this is now. The industry is
much larger, much more damaging and much different. Blacks need to know
It boggles my mind that black leaders aside from
religious leaders aren't speaking up more against this industry. Where are the politicians?
Certainly, the usual ones are there. Rep. Neal, Rep. Ralph Canty, Sen. Darrell Jackson and a
handful of others.
There are many other influential voices
that are silent.
Where, for example, is the NAACP? Could it be so
enthralled in the bid to bring the Confederate flag from atop the State House that it doesn't
recognize the economic hit black South Carolina is taking from video poker?
Unfortunately, the loudest, most consistent black
voice on video poker is Sen. Robert Ford, who is doing everything in his power to hand this
state, and its poor, weak and black residents, over to video poker.
He has practically offered to pimp the black vote
on video poker's behalf.
And for what? A few dollars donated to his
political action committee...
A measly 30 pieces of
could be reached by way of that newspaper's website.
You should consider subscribing to The State.
They have done a wonderful job in informing us of the dangers of this pan-societal
***give me your comments about this
check out the Highest
[posted 2 Oct. 1999]