The moral opposition to gambling might be gasping its last breaths.

As more and more states turn to casinos and gambling to fill shrinking budget coffers, the voices of the religious opposition are struggling to convince people that it is morally wrong.

It's an uphill fight: A recent study by Ellison Research showed that 70 percent of Americans do not consider gambling to be a sin.

"It's not acceptable in today's society to present arguments based solely on religion or morals," said I. Nelson Rose, who teaches gambling law at the Whittier Law School in California.

Thirty years ago, gamblers had to try their luck with scratch-off tickets or at casinos in Atlantic City or Las Vegas. Today, only two states — Utah and Hawaii — do not have some form of legalized gambling, according to the American Gaming Association. The other 48 have anteed up for tribal casinos, commercial casinos, racetracks, jai alai or lotteries.

Forty-three states have lotteries, mostly marketed as voluntary taxes for education, and 12 states now have commercial casinos.

Gambling contributes around 5 percent to state budgets — double what it was five years ago, said the Rev. Richard McGowan, a Boston College professor and author of The Gambling Debate, published in January.

In some states, it contributes much more, McGowan said — 11 percent in Louisiana and 18 percent in South Dakota. Experts say the gambling industry is growing and shows no signs of stopping any time soon.

"The church's opposition to gambling has not been widely effective," said the Rev. Tom Grey, spokesman for the National Coalition Against Legalized Gambling, "because (the church is) not relevant in an irreverent age."

Grey, ...

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