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Ask Chuck: Are casino resorts a good family reunion destination?

Ask Chuck your money question

Dear Chuck,

My brother wants to have a family reunion at a casino resort. He thinks it is a real bargain. My husband and I are totally opposed. Can you give us some guidance?

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Not a Gambling Family

REUTERS/Tim Shaffer
REUTERS/Tim Shaffer

Dear Not a Gambling Family,

First, there are a number of factors here that must be considered. The most exciting part is that your family wants to have a reunion! That is the good news. You don’t want to offend them or miss the opportunity. Family gatherings are priceless. But I certainly understand why you want to avoid a casino resort. It would be helpful to have more information about the “casino resort.”  For instance, most of the large mainline cruise ships have casinos on board, but these can be avoided while enjoying other amenities and entertainment options. It does not sound to me like that is the case with the location your brother prefers.

Casino resorts

This article explains that casino resorts have become tourist destinations because they have “everything one needs for an enjoyable weekend getaway.” They include entertainment, dining, gambling, spa, wellness and relaxation, and outdoor activities like hiking, golfing, sightseeing, and shopping. Customers say the resorts are a budget-friendly vacation. But the real costs are often hidden. These “budget-friendly vacations” are available only because so many of the guests will lose their money gambling.

Some people say gambling is just entertainment, like fishing, seeing a movie, or going to a baseball game. But when someone wins at gambling, they do so at the expense of others. Those who lose often go into debt. Addicts gamble more, thinking a big win will cover their debts. Many have shipwrecked their finances and possibly their entire lives by starting out with the idea of spending a limited amount on “entertainment” only to find themselves either addicted to the adrenalin rush of winning a few times or trying to double down and make up for their losses.

Gambling really boils down to self-gratification. It’s the thrill of possibly hitting the jackpot at any time. And winners don’t have to look at all the people who have been hurt by their participation. 

The facts about gambling gives these statistics:

  • The U.S. has the most casinos in the world: 2,157. Next comes Romania with 310, Canada with 216, and Mexico with 212.
  • 50% of casinos claim that the largest target demographic in the next five years will be Gen X — those born between 1965 and 1980.
  • Profit margins of casinos range between 1% and 25%. The industry tempts guests with enough winnings to want to return.
  • Approximately 10 million Americans are gambling addicts. You can find more information here.
  • Approximately 75% of them also struggle with alcohol. 38% report having drug addictions. 20% attempt or commit suicide. Since only 2–3% self-report, we really do not know how many gambling addicts exist. Statistics reveal that as many as 750,000 young people aged 14–21 are addicted. An average of 50% commit crimes to support their addiction.
  • Here are some warning signs of possible addiction: overly defensive, compulsively borrowing money, and outbursts over gambling discussions, along with absences from work, meetings, family gatherings, or school. states, “The average loss of casino addicts is around $55,000,” and it is estimated that “23 million Americans are in debt because of gambling.” reported that the casino industry was on track to win a record $60 billion from gamblers last year. According to the industry’s national trade association, the U.S. casino gambling industry generates almost $329 billion. 1.8 million jobs are supported by commercial and tribal casinos, either at the location themselves or in servicing them.

A gambling rivalry has existed between Virginia and North Carolina for years. Virginia opened a new Caesars last May, just across the border from North Carolina. The casino could be profiting as much as $250 million from North Carolinians. Some think casinos could improve the state’s economic growth. Others believe it would expose their communities to crime, addiction, and sex trafficking.

Even though casinos add revenue to communities, states, and the federal government, there are social costs involved. Technology has changed the look of gambling, and sports betting is on the rise. All segments of society are vulnerable to the temptation of gambling due to the availability of cell phones. People must determine not to play and be able to defend their stance.

“Almost every time, it’s in your best financial interest not to walk into that casino and place the bet — the math simply isn’t your friend” (Chris Neiger at Investopedia).

For me to win, others must lose

Some say gambling is good for society, just like investing. There is a vast difference between gambling and investing. If you invest in a successful company making advances in medical technology, you’re putting your money into something that has intrinsic value: jobs are created, there are returns on your investment, and patients benefit from products the company creates. It’s a win-win situation. Those who gamble and hit the jackpot celebrate their win while ignoring the fact that others suffer loss.

Believers should focus on wisely stewarding the money they have, not dreaming of what they might win at gambling.

“Steady plodding brings prosperity; hasty speculation brings poverty” (Proverbs 21:5 TLB).

Faith that is put in luck and random chance ignores God’s Word. Relying upon His wisdom, understanding, and knowledge, while seeking godly counsel, improves the opportunity for financial success. We must aim to be faithful with what we have and trust God to multiply our efforts, no matter how small, for His glory.

Don’t gamble on your family reunion

Armed with the facts, I suggest you have a warm conversation with your brother about why you would like to avoid the casino resort. Perhaps you can suggest an alternative family-friendly place nearby? Or you could stay elsewhere and join them at meals or excursions not held at the casino. Presented with love and grace, I think you will be able to agree with the need to find a more suitable option.

If anyone you know is struggling with credit card debt, Christian Credit Counselors is a trusted resource. They can help consolidate debt to get on the road to financial freedom.

Chuck Bentley is CEO of Crown Financial Ministries, a global Christian ministry, founded by the late Larry Burkett. He is the host of a daily radio broadcast, My MoneyLife, featured on more than 1,000 Christian Music and Talk stations in the U.S., and author of his most recent book, Economic Evidence for God?. Be sure to follow Crown on Facebook.

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