From the Casino to the Church

patrons in casino trap

In my line of work, we have to take frequent business trips. From time to time, those trips spill over into the weekend. This past weekend was one of those times. With my coworkers and I as guests in a faraway city, we did our best to fit in and have fun. One of the ways we had fun was by going to a local casino. (For the record, I don’t particularly care for casinos, but I was doing my best not to be a wet blanket.)

It was about a 30-minute drive from our hotel to the casino. As we got near, we were able to see a true spectacle. The casino was opulent and grand–quite a sight to see. And that was just on the exterior. Inside the casino was even more extravagant.

We stayed at the casino for hours and hours. Along the way, it didn’t take me long to pull away and just observe.

What I saw in that casino made my heart sick.

There were thousands of people at this casino. All them were presumably there to find happiness, but none of them actually looked happy. In fact, most of them looked miserable–especially the older people in attendance.

A recent article from AARP confirmed my suspicions. According to the magazine, nearly half of the 100+ million casino visitors each year are age 50 and older. In addition, they revealed many older adults viewed the casino as a place where they can socialize and escape from loneliness or grief.

And to take matters worse, casino workers are trained to befriend senior citizens and other fragile adults in order to keep them in casinos longer and more frequently. In some areas of the country, casinos even send complimentary shuttles to pick up seniors on the day their Social Security checks arrive.

Does it get any sleazier than that?

As Jesus followers, we understand that casinos only hand out fool’s gold. The Lord is the only refuge that truly satisfies. Unfortunately, so many of us never find this out. Or worse, we do understand but have turned to vices to fill our voids. Luckily, scripture clarifies where our hearts need to be to experience sustaining joy.

Matthew 5:6 – Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. (ESV)

Psalm 107:9 – For he satisfies the longing soul, and the hungry soul he fills with good things. (ESV)

While at the casino, I made the conscious decision to research good churches for Sunday. Since the internet is a modern miracle, it didn’t take long to find a great church. When I attended the church the next morning, I was not disappointed.

Not only was the Holy Spirit present and in full effect, I noticed something about the people that was remarkably different than the people at the casino the previous day: the people at this church were actually experiencing joy. Did the people have all the money in world? No. All the beauty? No. However, they had Jesus and loved ones; they were truly happy.

Related Content: Relationships are Powerful

I’m praying for everyone at the casino I visited. And I’m praying for everyone at casinos all over the country too. I know what they’re looking for. They’re just looking in the wrong place.

Written by Ben Baxter

My name is <a href="https://twitter.com/ben_baxter">Ben Baxter</a>. I am a husband, father, elder, engineer, and financial coach hailing from Tuscaloosa, Alabama. I am a regular contributor of personal finance and career development topics for <a href="http://connect.al.com/user/FinanceBlogger/posts.html">The Birmingham News / AL.com</a>. I am also the owner/editor of the multi-authored blog, <a href="http://baxterandfriends.net/">Baxter & Friends</a>.

  • Laura Sharp

    Ben, that was just lovely. How right you are. Why do we waste so much time, emotion, and resources on searching for something to fill the emptiness, when all we have to do is be still and know. Thank you and God bless.

  • I think a question we have to ask ourselves is how do we make a church or Christian community appear to offer “happiness” like a casino does? Obviously happiness is not the ultimate goal, or even the promise from God. But a void is filled by God that gives us a sense of joy that people seem to look for everywhere else BEFORE giving God “a try”

    This post really got me thinking last week – Thinking about how I can make a bigger difference and share God’s joy and love with others.

    Thanks for sharing this Ben! I love this post.

  • Virginia Anthony

    Wow Ben. I had no idea. You always do the best research for your posts. “And to take matters worse, casino workers are trained to befriend senior citizens and other fragile adults in order to keep them in casinos longer and more frequently”

    Talk about insensitive and exploitation. I actually got a little upset reading that. Taking advantage of people in unstable emotional states is absolutely the lowest of lows. You’re so right, God is the only refuge and I pray more people in these situations realize that.

    Thank you for sharing this. Really eye opening.

  • Linda Vogt Turner

    I just want to add that Jesus and the disciples makes friends with people wherever they are. It is sad that people gamble with the hope of getting money to help them survive…or to buy a house or to pay off debts etc. Gambling if one can afford it…does give the casino employees an income. Gambling can be an addiction for some and for others who can afford it a way of socializing. Churches sometimes can seem too much like hospitals…too clean and too boring. Many people need the spice and excitement of letting down one’s hair and doing something that allows one to cut loose occasionally or simply to feel like one of the gang…or a high roller…or to get some pleasure. My grandmother used to say…if we all thought a like…oh what a boring world this would be. And my family would be the first to point out…she said this when she disagreed. My grandmother was no shrinking violet. She and my grandpa loved to play jokes on one another and disagreed with one another many times in their 80+ years of marriage.

    • Benjamin Baxter

      Linda,
      Love your feedback. Yes, a diversity of thought is definitely needed. As the Body of Christ, if we are all chest but no torso, we wouldn’t be much of a body would we?

      • Linda Vogt Turner

        So true Ben. All heart and no strong head or guts to say no to things that poison and weaken the body…weakens the body.

  • Garrett Thompson

    I have been on similar work trips myself. One involved a casino just like yours and I had the same feeling/reflection about the patrons there. It was really sad to walk around and see the desperation and heartbreak throughout the building.

    Thanks for sharing your experience with us Ben!

    • Benjamin Baxter

      Thanks Garrett. I could count on my hands the people who actually looked happy.