When gambling broke out of the glitter ghettos of Las Vegas and Atlantic City in the late 1970s, it began a long and successful march into nearly every state and many local communities, racking up surprising victories and cowing opponents.

Gambling has advanced so swiftly that until recently there were few national organizations devoted to opposing it. Instead, antigambling activists have toiled in isolation and with little national fundraising to combat the gambling industry's estimated $35 billion in revenues.

Now, however, the sparkle has worn off some of the early promises made by gambling industry promoters, and Christians are attempting to bear witness to the failed predictions for gambling's abilities to bring true prosperity: Antigambling leaders had predicted crime would rise due to casino gambling, and it has. Las Vegas and Atlantic City have two of the nation's highest crime rates. In Biloxi, Mississippi, a regional casino hot spot, armed robberies doubled from 1992 to 1993.

Christians warned that underage gamblers would be insufficiently policed. A 1992 report by Chicago's Better Government Association (BGA) estimates that 7 million juveniles gamble in the United States. In the northeastern part of the country, as many as 80 percent of high-school students reported gambling for money in a one-year period.

Antigambling activists cautioned that the burden of lotteries and other gambling methods would fall disproportionately on the poor. Low-income households have quickly become heavier users of state lotteries than the wealthy. The gambling industry is developing new ways to attract the moderate-income gambler with entertainment and by installing easy-to-use slot machines.

Nevertheless, gambling, once ...

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