By David Anderson
‘A Bible Study and Beating-the-Odds Blackjack Training’
Or how about ‘Christians in Casinos – What would Jesus Bet?’
Coming to a church reader-board near you?
I received a call April 17, 2012 from the Executive Director of StopPredatoryGambling in Washington, D.C. Les Bernal wanted to know if he could give my name to KING 5 TV which is planning a story on a group founded in Seattle called Christian Card Counters (let’s abbreviate them to C3’s) about whom a documentary film has been made called “Holy Rollers” accompanied by articles in various publications around the country.
This was followed by a call from a KING 5 reporter who asked if I, as a ‘religious leader’ (1) had heard of the C3’s; (2) had a problem with their concept; and (3) was willing to be interviewed.
Since my first answer was ‘No’ (the other two ‘yes’) I did a bit of research.
“Card counting is a strategy in blackjack where the player mentally tracks what cards are played to calculate the probability of a certain hand. While not illegal, casinos consider the practice cheating and will ban players they catch beating their system.”
This explains why the C3’s have been “kicked out of every casino in the Pacific Northwest” (which would include those in Lakewood presumably).
Here’s an excerpt from the “Holy Rollers” film promo:
“The members of one of the largest and most heavily funded blackjack teams in the country are not a bunch of high-rolling Vegas card sharks. Instead, they are pastors, worship leaders, and other Christians who make up the Seattle-based Churchteam. Using card counting—a legal but heavily frowned upon method—they have learned how to increase their odds and fleece casinos for millions of dollars, much of which goes directly into church coffers.”
Not just condoning – but supporting and participating – pastors, presumably of cash-strapped churches (what churches aren’t?) gave their blessing and preached, by example, the fleecing of the flock of others while featherbedding their own.
When asked about her role, one of the Bible Study attendees – Faith by name – had this to say. “Well, I mean, who does that? Who spends time in casinos and loves Jesus? Casinos are raping people for money, and we could be a part of taking a little bit back. The fact that the team was made up of people who love Jesus and are in ministry was such a cool thing.”
Somewhere in their Bible studies these Christian so-called-by-the-casino ‘cheaters’ missed the truth that, as it turns out, is the One Year Bible reading for April 18, 2012:
“Wealth from get-rich-quick schemes quickly disappears; wealth from hard work grows over time” (New Living Translation ofProverbs 13:11).
Even a cursory glance at this reveals an interesting juxtaposition of truths: ‘quickly-obtained riches quickly disappear’, but – and it’s a big but since what follows is put in stark contrast with what precedes – ‘wealth via hard work grows as time goes by.’
In other words, easy money is contrasted with hard work.
And, money obtained quickly is gone just as fast: “so gewonnen so zerronnen”.
Interestingly, the word translated “quickly” – literally – according to Barnes’ Commentary means “by a breath, i. e., by a windfall, or sudden stroke of fortune.”
Shirley was one of the C3’s. “The most Shirley won in the shortest amount of time was $35,000 in 30 minutes.” And, “The last time Shirley played she lost $17,000 in 20 minutes.”
Shirley’s testimony: “I was a mom with little kids. I would ask friends if my kids could have a play date. I would feed them lunch and prepare a diaper bag, drop them off, run out to the casino, and come back within two, three hours to get my kids. The people watching my kids had no idea I was at a casino.”
Mark Treas is another C3’er who “by day leads worship and baptizes new believers (and) by night, he plays blackjack at Caesars Palace and other Vegas casinos.” Treas said that before he joined the team “he had to wrestle with the moral issue. He concluded that gambling is a neutral thing–like having a beer or shopping–not bad in itself, but sinful if abused.
“But some Christians disagree. Last month, Albert Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, said that gambling is motivated by greed, which is condemned in verses like 1 Timothy 6:10. He called the casino ‘a symbol of cultural decay and the death of character’ and said that gambling lures people in with the promise of wealth and entraps them in a loop of disappointment and despair.
“Treas, now a father of two, has quit – not for moral reasons, but because ‘I want the work of my hands to represent more than me making a bucket of cash.’”
Pretty good practical translation of Proverbs 13:11.
Perhaps there is even a play on words there in that ancient proverb with relevance for today. ‘vapor’, then ‘evaporate’.
Speaking of evaporating, the Christian Card Counters are no longer counting cards. They’re defunct.
So what can be said of so-called leaders – country, county, city, or churches for that matter – that depend upon the predatory nature of gambling to run their programs?
Gail E, Underwood says
Unfortunaely this happen to one of our former church members. As far as I know they no longer play the cards. But it cause a lot of problems and heardache for the family.
We forgave them yes, but they are now going to another church.
The money that they were spending on gambling could have been put to better use in helping others that really needed the help. To many times I have met up with money asking if I know of anyone they could borrow money from to pay their rent, Utilities, etc, but yet the minute they get paid they go out and pay Bingo instead of paying on their debts, normal monthly expenses first.