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  • Pacific Island Times Staff

Diocese of Agana reiterates opposition to casino gambling

For those who may have forgotten as Guam heads to another Liberation Day season, Guam Catholic church establishment wants to make its continued opposition to gambling clear, at least the variety of gambling known as "casino."

The question is funding of the festivities for the lib day festivities, which under the auspices of the Guam Council of Mayors, has paid the bills.

Legislative Vice Speaker Telena C. Nelson got the controversy rolling this time around by authoring and then withdrawing a bill that would have made the Guam Visitors Bureau rather than the mayors the gambling czars for the event. Responding to loud howls from the mayors, Nelson then introduced a bill leaving them in charge but tapping the GVB's "Rainy Day Fund," rather than all those spinning wheels and betting receipts to raise the funds.

Nelson said that Guam voters have repeatedly demonstrated opposition to legalized gambling.

According to a lengthy statement from the Diocese, "In 2017, the Archdiocese of Agaña joined other voices on island supporting the elimination of casino gambling in the annual Liberation Day Carnival.

The Church’s stance is the same today, except to more strongly urge that in addition to casino gaming at the carnival, we encourage local authorities and everyone in our community in general, to make an honest examination of other forms of highly addictive gambling locally and their propensity to harm our people.

Not all activities of chance and wagering are considered wrong. However, the archdiocese discourages gambling because of its proven capacity to destroy individuals, families and entire communities. Though the Catholic Church does not teach that gambling is intrinsically evil, it often becomes dangerous and a source of evil because of many of its forms’ addictive nature that capitalizes on man’s desire for fun, pleasure and money bolstered by a false sense of empowerment."

Archbishop Michael J. Byrnes offered some updated exposition on church teaching about gambling.:

"Gambling is not immoral in itself but may become so under certain circumstances as stated in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2413: "Games of chance (card games, etc.) or wagers are not in themselves contrary to justice. They become morally unacceptable when they deprive someone of what is necessary to provide for one's needs and those of others. The passion for gambling risks becoming an enslavement. Unfair wagers and cheating at games constitute grave matter, unless the damage inflicted is so slight that the one who suffers it cannot reasonably consider it significant."

The Archdiocese of Agaña especially opposes gambling that involves highly addictive casino-type machines or games. Damage is often inflicted swiftly. Hundreds of dollars can be squandered within seconds. Our priests counsel individuals and families who have lost money, possessions, even marriages and most of all, their peace and dignity because they could not resist gambling’s devastating enticement. They come to our doorsteps broken.

Eliminating casino gaming from last year’s Liberation Carnival activities was a step in the right direction for a community which places great worth in things such as faith, family and culture. However, more measures are needed to reverse a growing culture of recklessness and obsession in our island.

Liberation carnival fireworks, 2014 (Photo: Bruce Lloyd)

Gambling enterprises which entice patrons to spend their money at all times of the day and night – into the early morning hours – are especially harmful. Imagine the continuous loss of money that would otherwise be used to pay groceries, utilities and other basic goods for individuals and families.

We appreciate the Attorney General Office’s efforts declaring gambling machines illegal on Guam and lament that they have continued to exist for many years despite the findings. We understand as well, that the matter of the legality of such devices will be before both the Supreme Court of Guam as well as the Superior Court of Guam in the near future. We pray for wisdom and good judgement to fill the justices.

Highly addictive elements or pastimes in our community that endanger the livelihood of individuals and families, do not only affect the persons directly gambling, they harm the entire community.

Yours in Christ,

/s/Archbishop Michael Byrnes

Archdiocese of Agaña

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