It seems that my blogging friend Josh Claybourn and his associates at In the Agora (ITA) are partnering with an online overseas-based gaming operation (PartyPoker) owned by and largely funded by former billionaire online pornographers J. Russell DeLeon and his wife Ruth Parasol.
People can make their own individual judments as to whether they gamble. However, I have some specific objections:
1. The U.S. Justice Department has made it clear they consider online gambling to be illegal. True, they haven’t been able to shut it down, largely because the outfits, such as PartyPoker, don’t own any U.S. assets and are incorporated elsewhere (PartyPoker is set up in Gilbralter). Should bloggers advance causes of dubious legality?
2. Many individual states have declared online gambling to be illegal and have warned their citizens against it. Some states have written to PartyPoker and warned them they are operating illegally. Of course, surprise, surprise, since they are overseas, they simply ignore the warnings.
3. The seed money for this outfit was largely online pornography, which is a very exploitive business, to say the least. That alone ought to give Christians pause.
4. Josh and other writers (although not all, as ITA is diverse) have invested a lot of personal capital over the last few years in advancing and defending Christianity. This latest endeavor seems a direct assault on the cause of the faith. (I also don’t see this as advancing Josh’s possible future political aspirations, but then that is his business.) Gambling is a serious addiction for many, and it isn’t as if it doesn’t get a lot of advertising elsewhere. Further, a good number of college kids have been caught up in the craze, often to their significant detriment.
5. Since the outfit isn’t subject to U.S. oversight, how is one to be certain that PartyPoker’s operations are in the up-and-up with respect to Americans availing themselves of this entertainment service?
6. Are their regulations truly stringent enough to keep minors at bay?
7. Will the owners now stay out of the online pornography business, or might they reenter it at some future date, using as seed money gambling investments made at ITA’s invitation? Yes, I know we spend money all time that goes into things we disapprove of, but what if we know in advance that the risk might be significant?
I tend to have some fairly libertarian leanings as to how involved government should be in regulating personal morality. That doesn’t mean that we Christians should be indifferent to the possible damage caused by such an enterprise. I do recognize that people hold differing opinions as to whether or not the Bible would classify all gambling as sin, but I should at least note that the United Methodist Church strongly condemns it. (Former Education Secretary and “virtues” guru Bill Bennett, in racking up some rather large gambling debts said in his defense that he had never classified gambling as a moral evil.)
Correction/Clarification: It seems that I wrongly assumed that Joshâ€™s co-bloggers agreed to or were consulted about the â€œpartnering.â€ Several of them have expressed online or by e-mail to me that they were not involved. My apologies.