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NEWS YOU CAN USE BY DAVID BACHELOR, PhD
It is always newsworthy when a famous partnership ends. Remember all the headlines when the Beatles called it quits, or Simon and Garfunkel, or Sonny and Cher. For folks too young to remember these splits, think back just a week ago to the media attention focused on Tom Brady’s divorce from Giselle. So, it is no surprise that headlines this week are announcing the breakup of a partnership that has been in existence since 1586.
The featured duo is tobacco and games of chance. Ever since Sir Walter Raleigh brought his combustible leaves from the Virginia colony, folks have inhaled the smoke from these burning herbs wherever they assembled. Nowhere was this group fumigation done with more vigor than at gambling establishments. Recognizing this connection, the Sunday edition of the New York Times headline was, “Smoking and Gambling Go ‘Hand in Hand.’ But Maybe Not for Long.” Focusing on Atlantic City, the article noted many jurisdictions recognize the marriage between casinos and tobacco by exempting gambling parlors from smoking restrictions placed on other businesses. In Atlantic City, the special relationship may end soon. The article says, “An employee-led push to ban smoking on casino floors has gathered momentum and clout.”
The acrimony in the tobacco-gambling partnership was the subject of a letter to the editor in the November 6th edition of The Press of Atlantic City. The letter was titled, “Majority Should Prevail, End Smoking in Casinos.” The writer chronicled the numerical superiority of the anti-smoking populace in New Jersey. However, the author notes, “Well here we are again — another rally, another public display of the Casino Association of New Jersey disregarding the health and welfare of the frontline casino employees.”
The New York Times article explained why casino owners are resisting the divorce between gambling and tobacco. The author notes that although smokers make up only one in ten of the U.S. population, they comprise one in four of the casino customers in Atlantic City. “[A] report prepared at the request of the casino industry estimated that a smoking ban would lead to a roughly 10 percent to 11 percent decline in revenue.” Financial incentives are why casinos are resisting the workers attempt to dissolve tobacco’s hold on gaming.
The Bible contains the record of a similar fight to preserve a commercial marriage associated with a geographic location. In city of Ephesus, a spokesman for the makers of silver idols at the temple of Artemus told silver smiths and workers in related trades, “You know, my friends, that we receive a good income from this business” (Acts 19:25). The group wanted court protection for their monopoly. The artisans saw potential obsolescence caused by Christianity, “There is danger not only that our trade will lose its good name, but also that the temple of the great goddess Artemis will be made obsolete” (Acts 19:27). A riot nearly ensued. It was diffused by a court clerk who told the crowd, “Fellow Ephesians, doesn’t all the world know that the city of Ephesus is the guardian of the temple of the great Artemis and of her idol? Therefore, since these facts are undeniable, you ought to calm down and not do anything rash” (Acts 19:35-36). The clerk never imagined Ephesus could be divorced from Artemus.
The casinos in Atlantic City would do well to consider Ephesus. Smoking and gambling may appear to be conjoined forever, but the artisans in Ephesus thought the same thing about their industry. The association between Ephesus and the trade in Artemian idols only lasted until the Ephesian people fell in love with the true God (as the book of Ephesians bears witness). The gamblers in Atlantic City may forsake gaming while smoking if they discover a love for breathing.