Interview with a Casino Priest
Historically speaking, a casino is a place to lose money and time and wear a bad shirt (or take acid and go to a Lauryn Hill concert). What it isn’t is a place for a priest. So when I heard that Melbourne’s Crown Casino employs a full-time priest I said fuck off. But they do. They really do. That man is Friar James Grant, a plain-spoken dude of the cloth who spends his days chatting to lost souls in what must be one of the least spiritual places on Earth. I met him in the food court—where he knew everyone—to talk God, gambling, and whether or not he wanted to play craps with me.
VICE: So what are you doing here?
Friar James Grant: I offer counseling services. A lot of the people come to the casino because they’re lonely or they’re depressed. I always tell people to look at the bigger picture. OK, so you might have a gambling problem, but what else is going on in your life? What’s the bigger picture?
Do you tell people it’s wrong to gamble?
No, I don’t think it is. There’s nothing in the bible that says it’s wrong to gamble. What’s bad, and this goes for booze and drugs and driving your car 200 miles an hour down the road, is a lack of moderation. I would consider that in moderation, gambling could be considered a normal human activity.
So drugs are OK in moderation?
I don’t know about that, I’m simply saying you have the right to free will. Do you have the right to walk in here? Absolutely. Do you have the right to take drugs and fuck your life up? Yes you do. Is it a good decision? No, it’s a dickhead decision but if I try to stop you, if I say “you no longer have the right to do that,” then I’m reducing your humanity. And God wants a full life for everyone.
Wow, that doesn’t seem typical of the Catholic belief system. And you said “Fuck.”
[Laughs] Yes well, I’m just speaking for myself. I don’t espouse what you might think of as the normal Catholic agenda but then I think the Church needs to change. There are too many priests who never go into the real world. They sit in their church and wait for the congregations to come to them. That’s useless. I think I serve a much more useful roll by providing counseling where people need it and speaking like a real human being.