by Assad Meymandi, MD, PhD, DLFAPA
Dr. Meymandi is in private practice as a psychiatrist and neurologist and serves as an adjunct professor of psychiatry at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He is a noted physician, editor, and philanthropist who frequently speaks and writes on diverse topics that relate to his interests in medicine, the arts, religion, and philanthropy. He lives in Raleigh with his wife Emily.

Innov Clin Neurosci. 2012;9(3):32–33

This column is devoted to bridging the gap between basic sciences, medicine, the arts, and humanities.

If there is a clear case of “evil” in our midst it is “gambling.” Philosophers and theologians who seek answer to the question of evil and where it comes from “Unde Malum” agree that man’s tendency to concupiscence is a given. Man’s tendency toward “lower things” is well acknowledged. By nature, we drift to what is ill and downgrading and not toward what is elevating and educational. It is useful to remember that the very concept of education, from Latin “going toward higher things” is to help a child to reach higher things in life.

The late Yale theologian/historian Jaroslav Pelikan in an astounding treatise looked at the episode when the Lord Jesus Christ was so angry that he whipped the money changer in the Temple. Many have reported that the merchants and even the money changers were not doing anything wrong to evoke such volcanic anger in Jesus. But Pelikan’s scholarship suggests that the money changers were engaged in actually selling lottery, in his words “selling false hope to the innocent multitude…”

I conducted an online search on the topic of the evil lottery has caused. There are nearly one million stories of ordinary people who have been abused by gambling. There are very few stories about how lottery has helped. By nature, the abominable Lottery establishments are vulnerable to evil associations and pernicious influence of the unwelcome to the community.

In North Carolina, we passed the lottery bill by one vote. I submit that this was not in the best interest of our state. In our clinical practices, we see increasing number of addicted and compulsive gamblers that inadvertently destroy their families. Gambling is evil, despotic, and un-educational. It is sheer hypocrisy and evil for our politicians to allow gambling with the expectation that proceeds go toward education. The very act of gambling erodes education. In her recent book, The Lottery, Shirley Jackson, describes a very Mayberry type town, where everyone knows everyone. Families carry the very ordinary names of Warner, Martin, and Anderson. Jackson describes when gambling and lottery came into the community; it ruined families, caused divorce, and increased the incidence of depression and anxiety. She backs up her claim by citing data from Center for Disease Control and Prevention of Atlanta showing that 5 to 7 percent of the United States population is addicted to gambling and directly participate in uncontrolled and compulsive purchase of lottery tickets. Women are placing more than half of the calls to some state gambling crisis lines, double the percentage of a decade ago.

Moreover, in another recent study by Pew Research Center, a survey poll showed that 70 percent of Americans believe that legalized gambling encourages people to gamble more than they can afford. That’s a noteworthy increase from 1989, when 62 percent expressed that concern in a Gallup survey. In North Carolina, clinicians are seeing more problems related to compulsive gambling. I do not understand why we create problems then publish toll-free telephone numbers for crisis lines to offer help. This is a gross violation of prevention principles.

“Cities (polis), states and governments,” said Socrates and reported by Plato in Republic, “are like people. They can be beneficent and altruistic toward their citizens, or they can be psychopathic and narcissistic, sucking the life blood out of their citizens” by implementing measures like gambling. Gambling is a silent tax on the poor. It should be repealed.