As society doubles down on online sports gambling, older activists see a chance to renew the Christian conscience around the practice.
The 1990s were a busy time for Christians combatting gambling at local levels: fighting a casino here or lottery expansions there.
Tom Grey, a Methodist minister, traveled 250 days a year with the National Coalition Against Legalized Gambling, which now goes by the name Stop Predatory Gambling. He can remember major wins, like keeping a casino out of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, with the help of filmmaker Ken Burns.
“The problem is [gambling companies] just have to win once, and they’ve got it,” Grey said. “Mayors and other people would stand up and say, ‘We don’t want your casino.’ Now there aren’t choices any longer. Churches feel it’s over.”
Grey, 81, is retired, but now he is watching the latest iteration of the industry take off: sports betting.
The Super Bowl on Sunday will be the first big windfall in many states for online sports betting. Companies like Draft Kings and FanDuel have been running ads throughout game broadcasts and all over sports news sites, urging fans to put money on their favorite teams or fantasy leagues.
The American Gambling Association has projected a record 31.4 million Americans will put down $7.6 billion on this year’s LA Rams–Cincinnati Bengals matchup. That’s up more than one-third from last Super Bowl, as more states have legalized online betting. Sports betting is now legal in 30 states and Washington, DC. In some states, such betting happens at a physical venue, while others have begun allowing it online.
After the US Supreme Court ruled in favor of the practice in 2018, states lined up to legalize sports betting to get a slice of the tax revenue from the multibillon-dollar industry. State-level Christian organizations …