By Bill Webb
JEFFERSON CITY — Voters in Missouri’s capital will make a decision April 8 either to overturn a ban on riverboat gambling or to keep casinos out of the community.
Opponents of casino gambling in the city organized shortly after the city council voted 6-4 in January to place measures on the ballot to repeal the 12-year-old ban.
They organized as Citizens Supporting Integrity (CSI) and set up a Web site to diseminate information about casino gambling in an effort to urge city residents to vote “no” on Propositions B and C on the April 8 ballot.
Proposition B calls for amending the city charter by repealing the ban against riverboat gambling and casinos, while proposition C calls for the licensing of “excursion gambling boats or floating facilities.”
CSI has tried “to demonstrate the truth using videos, testimonials, fact sheets, peer reviewed studies and other data about the predatory nature of asinos….,” according to its Web site: www.csijeffcity.com.
Doyle Sager, senior pastor of First Baptist Church of Jefferson City, has been an outspoken opponent of the measure to overturn the ban on casinos.
“My greatest concern is for the marginalization of the poor working class and the ripping of the social fabric of a community when we begin to put people at the bottom of the list of priorities and seek shortcuts to economic growth,” he told Word&Way.
“First Baptist Church is deeply invested in the downtown area and in Jefferson City as a community,” he explained. “We believe God has called us to be His presence here, and we want the best for our people.”
Sager has found pastors and churches in the city to be extremely supportive.“Monte Shinkle (pastor of Concord Baptist Church in Jefferson City) and I hosted a luncheon and about 30 showed up,” he said. “Considering pastors’ schedules and an early Lenten season, we were very encouraged.”
But the matter has been more than a moral issue, he said.
“I have been very, very encouraged to see so many business people who realize that it is economically a bad plan,” he said.
“It is both economic and moral, and actually they tie together,” Sager explained.
“It is immoral to seek economic growth at the expense of destroying lives…. Government needs to appeal to to the highest, not the lowest, in its citizens,” he said.
“I have enjoyed the broad coalition of lots of different faith traditions and working with people with no particular church connection,” he said. “But finding common cause has bonded us together and it has been fun.”