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Faith leaders host rally, say ‘Vote Yes’ on Question 3

Date: 10/31/2014

SPRINGFIELD – The statewide Faith for Repeal Campaign made its way to Western Massachusetts on Oct. 23, drawing clergy leaders from the area, including Pastor Amanda Sunny of the Bethany Assembly of God in Agawam and Imam Wissam Abdul Baki of the Islamic Society of Western Massachusetts in West Springfield.

Religious leaders gathered for the Faith for Casino Interfaith Rally at the Greek Cultural Center to encourage people to vote “Yes” on Question 3, which would repeal the 2011 law allowing casinos in the state.

Seven speakers from different religious backgrounds addressed their peers from the area, referring to the “Vote Yes” fight as a “David versus Goliath battle.” The speakers varied in religious beliefs, from Catholicism and Judaism to Islam and Greek Orthodox.

Steven Abdow from the Episcopal Diocese of Western Massachusetts believes that this unity shows the strength of the cause.

“We all know this is a unique moment when such unanimity occurs on a policy,” Abdow said.

Father Chris Stamas of St. George’s Greek Orthodox Cathedral, which hosted the rally, said the presence of a casino in Springfield would negatively challenge the city on more than one front.

“Casino gambling will bring this state to its knees economically and will devastate the moral fabric of our society,” Stamas said. “We all need to say, ‘No dice and no vice in this city.’”

While the other side of the issue has argued that the construction of casinos would create thousands of jobs for the city of Springfield and the surrounding communities, those at the rally were quick to counter that point. Sunny said that many of the jobs created would only last the length of construction and others would require a specific skill set.

Beyond that, Sunny questioned what else the city would gain if the legislation is not repealed.

“Casinos rely on pathological gamblers in order to stay in business and they have vested interest in creating pathological gamblers. This is profiting at the expense of people’s misery and devastation,” Sunny said. “Gambling addiction increases 100 per cent in communities that have casinos. We think about the potential jobs created, but think of the potential addicts that could be created.”

Longmeadow resident Stephen Kennedy has been following the issue closely for more than a year, and his concerns have grown, especially in light of the Delaware casino bailout earlier this year.

“I don’t want that to happen here in Springfield,” Kennedy said. “Springfield is too good for that type of a thing to happen.”

Kennedy said that news of the Changchun Company coming to Springfield with a rail car manufacturing plant is along the lines of what should be pursued instead.

“Industry is what has made Springfield in the past and industry is what will make it again in the future, not casinos,” Kennedy said.