Gambling Is No Virtue

Christians are called to be stewards of God's blessings. Could Bennett's earnings have been put to better use?

While opinions differ as to whether gambling is a vice, few would regard it as a virtue. This is why the news of Bill Bennett's fondness for high-stakes gambling is so disappointing. As the nation's leading critic of America's virtue deficit, Bennett, like it or not, bears a greater burden regarding his personal conduct than the average citizen.

Bennett has now done the right thing by renouncing his behavior and making the decision to change his ways. This is a refreshing, yet all too uncommon practice among public leaders. It is an example for all of us who promote virtue in the public square.

Some gloating pundits, of course, have pounced on the story to accuse Bennett of being a moralizing hypocrite. In his defense, Bennett said, "I adhere to the law. I don't play the `milk money.' I don't put my family at risk, and I don't owe anyone anything." Bennett, who has been a featured speaker at

Family Research Council

events, says he pays taxes on his winnings. "I've gambled all my life," he said, "and it's never been a moral issue with me. I liked church bingo when I was growing up." It should also be noted that when confronted with the reports of his gambling habits by Newsweek magazine, Bennett freely admitted that "I play fairly high stakes."

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There has been no cover-up, no abuse of a public office, and no lying under oath.

In addition, the motivations of casino employees for apparently leaking massive amounts of confidential financial information have been insufficiently explored. The online magazine

Slate

offers conflicting hypotheses. One is that the casinos want to embarrass Bennett's organization

Empower America

, which has listed the expansion of gambling as negative cultural indicator. The other is that they wanted Bennett to be seen as a role model, giving other pro-family, pro-virtue Americans implicit permission to indulge a taste for gambling.

Although Bennett has not violated any laws, the sheer scale of his gambling activities is troubling. Reports that Bennett does not dispute suggest he has wagered millions of dollars over the last decade and that casinos in Las Vegas and Atlantic City extend to him "high-roller" status. Christians are called upon to be good stewards of God's blessings, and observers are understandably wondering whether Bennett's earnings could have been put to better use.

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Ken Connor
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