High Stakes

With internet wagers unregulated, gambling is on the rise and closer to home. How will we help the hooked and persuade the unconvinced?

Jeanne* was trapped. Her social outings to the nearby casino had grown into an addiction to slot machines and video poker. "I'm hooked, and I could be facing bankruptcy," the 59-year-old grandmother told her pastor.

Gulfport wasn't a casino town when Dean Register accepted the call to pastor First Baptist Church. But soon after he moved there, Mississippi voted to allow casino boats, and the three coastal counties were soon transformed into a seaside Las Vegas, minus the showgirls.

Knowing the pain legalized gambling would cause in his community and his congregation, Register fought approval.

"Register? Is your dad that idiot who's trying to fight the progress of gambling around here?" his teenage daughter's new teacher asked on the first day of school. Yes, he was, for three years. Soon after the final vote, a casino boat was docked on the shore of the Gulf of Mexico, almost directly across the narrow highway from his church's stately columned sanctuary.

Register has many stories about gambling ...

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