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Rabbi Slams Las Vegas Nights in N.Y.

An official of the New York Board of Rabbis (NYBR), which waged a losing battle against approval in a referendum in 1976 by New York voters of Las Vegas nights for fund-raising by non-profit institutions, said today many Jewish congregations were conducting such fund-raising in violation of the law. Rabbi Paul Hait, NYBR executive director, said the rabbinical group had issued a statement reaffirming its opposition to gambling in houses of worship, initially issued on Oct. 5, 1976.

The NYBR, which represents Orthodox, Conservative and Reform rabbis of the New York area, declared that Las Vegas games tend to involve “professional gamblers and attract criminal elements who, ultimately, will wield malevolent power over religious organizations.”

Declaring that it had consistently opposed fund-raising through gambling as “not consonant with the high standard of morality and dignity which our religious tradition sets for the general community,” the NYBR said “we cannot use questionable means to achieve even the most meritorious goals, for this would negate the ideals cherished by the Jewish tradition.”

Hait said the fears of the NYBR had been confirmed by the recent action of an individual identifying himself as a rabbi, who rented a closed supermarket in Queens, ostensibly to be a synagogue, but which was used to operate Las Vegas nights. Hait said the individual was not listed by any rabbinical organization and that he decided to shut down the venture after it attracted widespread unfavorable attention.

Hait said the requirements of the Las Vegas law are so restrictive that two non-profit institutions which had obtained the required licenses decided not to stage Las Vegas nights. He said neither was a synagogue. In addition to a license, the law bans mass advertising of such events, imposes a maximum win of $1000 per participant per night, and the gambling events must be conducted by the sponsoring institution, with outsiders barred.

Hait told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency that the NYBR had learned that many congregations were conducting Las Vegas nights without licenses and with outsiders operating the games. The NYBR statement said the rabbinical group was aware that many non-profit institutions and organizations have operated Las Vegas nights “to meet their financial obligations” but urged them “to develop alternate revenue producing functions.”

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