Gambling has been more in the news it seems over the last few years, with mega-lotteries, more states legalizing casinos, and ex-mayor of San Diego, Maureen O’Connor, losing over a billion dollars playing video poker. In this era of a rapidly growing gambling industry, we are going to see more stories in the news like this, and more people we know will be affected by its negatives.
In the United States we have casinos (commercial and Indian), sport wagering, horse and dog racing, racinos or a combination of animal betting and casino light (often only slot machines), so-called ‘Internet Cafe’ gambling, private online gambling, charitable (often non-profit bingo) and lotteries–both state and national. According to the Wiki about gambling in the USA, all states have some form of legal gambling with the exception of Hawaii and Utah. I should have covered this subject earlier, because I have met many people damaged by their own gambling or by that of their loved ones.
What does the Bible say about Gambling?
The Bible does not directly address gambling, but primarily it warns us about some of the issues around it, such as greed, covetousness, contentment, love of money, and selfishness–in fact it warns us big time about these things. So primarily for Christians it is a matter of conscience and self evaluation. When Christians consider buying a lottery ticket or walking into a casino to gamble or wager on sports, what is going through their hearts and minds? Are they doing it for simple entertainment value, expecting to spend only a few dollars? Conversely, it might be their thinking that for a few dollars they have the chance to make a lot of money. Perhaps they consider what good they can do for themselves and their families, and of course for society by being great philanthropists. For major monotheistic religions with sacred scriptures, Judaism and Christianity viewpoints are similar. Islam forbids gambling.
What is really going on in inside me when I gamble?
My emotions tempt me to buy a lottery ticket when the mega lotteries are hitting 100’s of millions. Isn’t it good stewardship, or investing, to wager one dollar for the chance to win a billion dollars? (The record in the U.S. is $1.3 billion 1/2016.) If I am on a business trip in Las Vegas, what is the harm in gambling a little, for I might win big. Looking within, I know that basically I am a sinful man, just like everyone else. I am putting my hope in money and not in God by walking that path. It is saying that I don’t trust God, who owns everything, to bless me the way he intends to, however great or humble that might be. It is walking outside of the way I see God’s plan for my life.
Why I don’t gamble.
- I don’t do it, for as a director of a financial ministry in a church, it totally goes against what I teach and believe–it would be wrong for me to do so.
- Secondly, as I said in the prior section, it is walking outside God’s plan for my life.
- It would be bad stewardship of the money God has entrusted me with to manage according to his purposes, since first God doesn’t want me to do it, and secondly the odds are extremely high that I will not win, that I am wasting that money.
- It supports an industry that profits mainly on the backs of the poor, often may have organized crime associated with it, but I am contributing to hurting others; the profits they derive from my contribution sustain and grow it, which may end up hurting more people than would be affected if I didn’t give them any money.
- It is a bad investment, a waste of money, since the odds of losing are very high.
- Lastly, I am not good at it, I’ve always lost on lotteries, at friendly neighborhood card games, and once when I bet about $50 in Las Vegas.
- The Casino environment is depressing, false and gross, and I might become addicted to it.
- Medical science says it produces a drug for our brain, which is probably unhealthy.
Why I am against the proliferation of legalized gambling.
- Research shows that profiting on false hope, more people become addicted to it; it leads to the breakdown of families in areas where it occurs.
- As gambling grows, crimes such as human trafficking, domestic violence, and driving under the influence of alcohol, increases.
- Gambling is also a tax on the poor, since a higher percentage of gamblers are those of modest to very low incomes. In my position of counseling people with financial problems, and looking at research, I have discovered that more than 50% live paycheck to paycheck, have excessive debt, and have no savings–gambling increases the likelihood of personal financial failure to those on modest incomes, and it increases their dependency on social programs.
- Gambling destroys self-sufficiency work ethic, causing dependence on chance instead of on hard work. The Twentieth Century Fund research group commented, “Gambling’s get-rich-quick appeal appears to mock capitalism’s core values: disciplined work habits, thrift, prudence, adherence to routine, and the relationship between effort and reward.”
- I think it invites more corruption in government both at the high levels and locally. It puts more money, and thus power, into the hands of institutions and the powers behind them, to affect all sorts of public policies, some of which may be bad.
- Elderly people with extra time and access to gambling often deplete reserves needed for their own survival and reduce or does away with funds they might have left as inheritances. I see older and disabled people all the time buying hundreds of dollars in lottery tickets at Kroger, when I’m in the checkout line.
- Big windfall lottery winnings, more often than not, increase the likelihood of major depression, bankruptcy and divorce. Long-term slow accumulation of wealth develops character traits that aid in the management of large sums of money. Instant wealth often ruins high paid athlete’s and lottery winner’s lives.
Some of the positives or other points of view regarding legalized gambling
To give balance to this article, it is only fair to look at these too.
- Some people may win big, but there’s a one in over a hundred million chance of losing.
- People are going to gamble anyway, why not legalize it so that it is controlled and taxed heavily? Some people take this viewpoint, but some say the cost to society both in social services, breakdown of families, and corruption outweighs the benefits.
- The taxes from gambling or profits from lotteries often go to help schools and other societal needs. This may be true, but often funds are diverted elsewhere in government budgets, so it’s quite possible there is no real financial benefit. Plus, if the funds come from those in poverty, like research shows, it’s another unfair tax on the poor, something Christians shouldn’t support.
- It is an innocent form of entertainment and government shouldn’t restrict people’s freedom or mandate laws based on one’s particular religious beliefs. Government has always made laws and regulations, often derived from beliefs based in religion or non-religious beliefs. Vices have always been regulated, restricted, taxed and or prohibited–including alcohol, prostitution, pornography, and gambling. Sometimes it is easier and cheaper to legalize, tax and treat medically. However, we’ve moved way beyond that, with this growing industry.
- It’s good for the local economy. Gambling establishments employ a lot of people and pay well. Their construction and growth of business in their areas have often been seen. While on this subject…
Is it okay to have a job working for the legalized gambling industry?
- Some may say that working in a casino or for a related business as a Christian is an additional opportunity for them to be salt and light (Matthew 5:13-16) to all parts of the world around them. I respect Christians who prayerfully consider working in a gambling institution, or a related industry, such as raising race horses, and decide to do so based on their own discernment and understanding.
- On the other hand, others may say that it isn’t good for people to expose themselves to an environment that is at the least negative, and at the worst demonic. Somewhere in the middle is the argument that it could even detract them from maturing in their walk with Christ.
- Whether one decides to seek or accept this kind of employment, it should be a matter of prayer, evaluating various scriptures about money, and seeking counsel from others (Proverbs 15:22).
In Conclusion, how should Christians respond to the proliferation of gambling?
- Engage people in conversations about faith and money, bringing up key Bible verses like Matthew 6:19 – 24 and Proverbs 23:4.
- Consider abstaining from it, so you don’t contribute to the industry that is harmful.
- Perhaps, avoid investing in companies in the gaming industry.
- Be politically active in movements against legalizing it, vote against it and don’t support politicians that do. Christians often act very un-Christ-like in the political marketplace, so they should be very conscious of their emotions and behaviors so that they don’t cast a bad light on Christianity.
- Provide various ministry opportunities to those caught in gambling.
- Provide financial education classes teaching wise personal financial management as a preventative measure.