GOSPEL CHOIR FEELS AT HOME IN CASINO FOR MOTHER'S DAY

The Harlem Gospel Choir entertained hundreds for a Mother's Day celebration... The choir's selections included "Amazing Grace," "O Happy Day," "Joyful, Joyful," and "When the Saints Go Marching In." The choir has performed in other casino hotels, but this was its first foray to Atlantic City. "I hope it's not the last. I'd like this to be the start of a tradition," Bailey (choir founder) said. COURIER POST/ 5.10.04
http://www.courierpostonline.com/news/southjersey/m051004h.htm

CASINO WATCH EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR,
SAM MURRELL'S OPEN LETTER TO
THE HARLEM GOSPEL CHOIR
CONCERNING THEIR PERFORMANCE
IN AN ATLANTIC CITY CASINO

Gospel music has been a powerful source of blessing & encouragement for the black community for years, and now with the advent of groups like the Harlem Gospel Choir the art form has been severed from the church & the rest of the world is discovering this wonderfully unique, indigenous art form. Gospel music's ancestor, the Negro Spiritual, was birthed in the bowels of slavery, and she has spawned a legitimate offspring, black gospel music, which was also born out of tough times & tribulation. Your organization has been used for years as an ambassador of this great music form. You have much of which to be proud.

Knowing the history of this powerful art form and also understanding the devastating effect that gambling is having on families across this world, not just this nation (Australia is the most gambling addicted nation in the world), I was taken by surprise to see your organization endorse the parasitic industry of legalized gambling by performing in a casino hotel. If the article is correct (May 10th, Courierpostonline.com), this is not the first time your choir has performed at a casino hotel.

I realize that you don't know me, but please hear me out. For the last seven months I have been working for an organization which has been fighting casino expansion for over 10 years in Missouri. (Feel free to check out our website at www.casinowatch.org.) What I have learned in this brief period of time is the following: casinos are not a harmless form of entertainment. They wreak communities (there are numerous studies that show how casinos have made Atlantic City a worse place, not the paradise casino owners make it out to be) and leave behind devastated families, mostly poor families, in their wake. All the while throwing millions of dollars into government coffers to keep the government off their backs.

Our website contains valuable information showing, for example, how casinos prey on the elderly. One casino in Iowa admits that 75% of their customers are over the age of 50! In Atlantic City, where The Harlem Gospel Choir (HGC) performed, 65% of all the revenue sucked in by casinos comes from the elderly! Does this sound like the type of industry that truly honors Mother's Day? I don't think so. I submit to you that by performing at casino hotels you are endorsing gambling to many in the black community who may yet be uncertain regarding the morality of gambling. Just because something is legal doesn't make it morally right.

HGC raises funds for children, so consider the fact that there is a growing gambling epidemic among teens in this country. How do you think those young people view HGC performing at a casino? This age group is the second fastest growing group of gambling addicts, behind the elderly ( i.e. their grand parents).

Noted expert on adolescent gambling Dr. Durand Jacobs found between 40% and 60% of teenagers reported they have gambled for money. Using these projections, as many as seven million high school age kids are gambling on a regular basis and of those, more than one million are experiencing "serious gambling problems".

Casinos are fundamentally predatory in nature. They are not the type of business a community focused group, such as yourself, should be partnering with. Bankruptcy, suicide, crime, divorce, all of these are the natural consequences when people are encouraged to take their hard earned money & instead of spending it on their families, throw it away at slot machines, poker, and other games of chance.

Allen Bailey is quoted as having said, "I'd like this to be the start of a tradition", referring to HGC singing at casino facilities. For the sake of the very children for whom you fund raise, please reconsider your willingness to perform in casino hotels. Casinos were created to take people's money. Frankly, they're very good at what they do. Is that the kind of business the Harlem Gospel Choir wants to be associated with? Please, educate yourself, take a look at out website & send another message to the children for whom you fund raise.

Sincerely,



Sam Murrell, Executive Director, Casino Watch, Inc.
www.casinowatch.org