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The Journal Gazette

Tuesday, January 15, 2019 1:00 am

Furthermore ...

Gambling's evils pastor's enduring crusade

There's sad irony in the fact that John Wolf died last week just as the General Assembly began what seems like an annual exercise in expanding gambling. 

A retired minister, Wolf died in Valparaiso at 100. Pastor of Fort Wayne's First Wayne United Methodist Church from 1972 to 1980, he was known statewide as the chair of the Indiana Coalition Against Legalized Gambling.

In Fort Wayne, he also was a co-founder of Clergy United For Action, which brought together black and white faith leaders to tackle civil rights issues.

But lawmakers and lobbyists knew Wolf, a decorated World War II Navy chaplain, for his untiring battle against legalized gambling.

“Take a pause until you study the impact,” Wolf urged legislators as they considered dockside gambling in 2001. “Consider the ABCs of gambling: Addiction, bankruptcy, crime and corruption. Bottom-line economics is not the most important issue here.”

“When do we understand that the winnings of the casinos are the losses of people?” he asked at an earlier hearing.

Wolf's obituary acknowledged his “quixotian” battle against the industry, which has grown exponentially in Indiana since the lottery was approved by a voter referendum in 1988. Legislation to approve sports wagering is the latest effort. It's likely to be approved, given the state's insatiable appetite for the tax revenue. 

But John Wolf's impassioned warning about the impact of gambling still is worth heeding.