Portrait of Sam Murrell
As the oldest of four children growing up in central Florida, I remember Christmas as a time of tremendous uncertainty. Most children have some uncertainty regarding Christmas because they wonder if they will get what they requested from jolly ole Saint Nick. My uncertainty, however, was associated with whether I would get anything for Christmas. No, I wasn't such a bad child that I had no right to expect anything from the jolly old elf. And no, my uncertainty was not due to my step-father being unemployed. Actually, he had a pretty good job in the construction industry. My uncertainty came from the fact that my stepfather loved to gamble.
He played cards, he rolled dice, he bet on the outcome of sporting events, he even bet on our German Shepherd in dog fights. Bills regularly went unpaid. There were weeks when he walked through the door on Friday evening having lost his whole paycheck between the time he got off work and the time he arrived home. Eventually, we were evicted from our home due to falling behind in payments. These were all part of the natural consequences of living with a gambler. His choices affected our family's economic reality every day of the year. But somehow the way his gambling affected Christmas is what I remember most. Gambling is much more than harmless entertainment. Gambling, among other things, steals a child's Christmas.

Christmas is a time for celebrating the birth of Jesus, but for children in our culture it has also become a magical time. A time for dreaming the impossible. A time for hoping against hope. A time when a child dares to believe that his dreams could actually come true. Unfortunately, for many children across this great nation of ours, it has become a time of shattered dreams, and empty promises. Many of those shattered dreams and broken promises are directly related to the plague of casino activity which is sweeping our nation.

I have worked with children and hurting people since my final year in graduate school, 1985. I spent 8 years in the pastorate, two years in the field of education and I have another ten years experience in social services working with the homeless, abused children, counseling troubled youth, and providing outpatient therapy to adults with various addictions and mental health diagnoses. When I was asked to consider becoming the Executive Director of Casino Watch I leaped at the opportunity to focus my energies on stopping the spread of gambling. An industry which, by its own admission, "...doesn't create anything... It offers entertainment and leisure...but it doesn't create anything in the long run." (The Luck Business, Robert Goodman, page 15. The quote is from a Casino Developer.) What casinos do create that does have a lasting effect on our communities are divorces, bankruptcies, depression, increase in criminal activity, increase in suicide attempts and an increase in youth gamblers, to name a few. Is this what you want in your community? I have seen, first hand, the devastation problem gambling can have on a family. The supposed economic benefits of casinos pale in comparison when placed along side the devastating social impact that these life sucking neon leeches have on a community. Its the equivalent of social strip mining.

This year, during the upcoming legislative session, Casino Watch will be fighting to maintain the $500.00 loss limit. Briefly, the loss limit requires a patron of a casino to wait two hours after losing $500.00. This requirement (which the casinos agreed to when gambling was legalized in Missouri) has been instrumental in keeping many problem gamblers from losing everything in a very short period of time. It serves as a "cooling off" period for the gambler and gives him an opportunity to stop before he loses too much money. Casinos want to see this restriction lifted. Why? Because they claim they're not making enough money to stay in business in Missouri. Please notice, a gambler can still lose $6000.00 a day with the loss limit! Many, however, after losing the $500.00 decide to quit. That's what the casinos want to change. They do not want the gambler to have that extra time to possibly come to his/her senses and quit.

Will you help us? We cannot do this alone. We will be calling on you from time to time throughout this legislative session to write your senator or representative. We will keep you up to date, but you have to respond. You are the only one standing between good government and the expansion of casinos in Missouri. Don't wait until it comes to your back yard, it may be too late. A good place to begin is the $500.00 loss limit. Let your representatives know that you do not want this safe guard removed. Let them know that you're tired of seeing families ruined. Let them know you don't want to see another child's Christmas stolen by gambling.

Since 1997 CasiNO Watch has been successfully opposing the expansion of gambling for the health, welfare and safety of families through research, education and lobbying.

While maintaining a library of over 100,000 news articles, magazines, books, audio and video tapes, CasiNO Watch has been a recognized figure on the national scene. Major U.S. newspapers, TV stations and radio, the Readers Digest, as well as media in Missouri have carried stories about CasiNO Watch.

This web site has received praise from anti-gambling activists and government leaders around the world for exposing the crime, political corruption and the "hidden costs"...both financial and personal to the families of gamblers as well as the non-gambling taxpayer. The information and resources that we provide have been instrumental in defeating gambling legislation and referenda in many states.

We need your financial help. Your dollars will enable CasiNO Watch to continue exposing the gambling industry's deceptive message funded with millions of dollars that have been stolen from our children's Christmas.

Please send your non tax-deductible gift to:
P.O. Box 169
Chesterfield, MO 63006

For gifts of $30 or more you will receive a complimentary bumper sticker - "Gambling Steals a Child's Christmas." Please include your return address.

To receive our newsletters or alerts on gambling issues in Missouri, please notify us at the above address.
To receive alerts on gambling activity in Missouri by e-mail, please contact us at: gamblinghurts@casinowatch.org

If you've been a victim of gambling addiction,
please e-mail us your story.