Is Gambling A Sin?

by William J. Stewart

It is a common thing to see advertising for a variety of gambling options on TV, on billboards, and online. Perhaps you’ve seen the lotto ad in which two men play a game of “hide and seek” with a helicopter and speed boat? Or the promise of $1,000 cash per week for life. There are all kinds of appeals made for people to take a chance on the lotto.

If the lotto is not your cup of tea, maybe a bingo would work. There are even church groups that conduct bingos. Or maybe the casino might catch your fancy. Government operated casinos are emerging throughout Ontario. A whole host of games; slots, blackjack, roulette, etc. are available there.

Not interested in the lottery, bingo, or casino games? You can now bet on the outcome of sporting events, legally sanctioned by the gaming commissions that regulate lotteries and casinos. No bookie required.

Maybe you want to gamble, but don’t want to leave the house. You can do that too! You can participate in all the above on the internet now, and soon, OLG will host web gambling too! To say we are a people obsessed with gambling is an understatement. The “OLG generates $3.8 billion annually in economic activity in Ontario.”1 Part of this huge revenue is used by the provincial government to provide counselling services for people who are betting away their life savings and pay checks. How evil is that?! If our government were actually concerned about these folks, it would outlaw gambling. Problem is, there’s too much profit to be made in gambling to stop it.

Having shown the variety of ways one can gamble, and the huge profits that our government is making from the gaming industry, let us turn our attention to the question, “Is gambling a sin?” It is sad that some do not exercise self-control when gambling, and as a result hurt themselves and their family. Such lack of self-control is sinful. Paul acknowledged that we’ve the ability to do all kinds of things, but cautioned that we should “not be brought under the power” of anything (1 Corinthians 6:12). It doesn’t matter what it is, if we are under the control of something (a bottle, nicotine, drugs, food, etc.), it is sinful. The same is true of gambling.

For some folks, gambling is sinful on the basis that they will become or already are addicted to it. You might reason, “Well, I’ll be able to control myself,” or “I know my limits,” but why would one give an open door to temptation?

Many will justify gambling because it is associated with charity. Not too far from us, you can find the 1,000 Island Charity Casino. Well, that’s good, isn’t it? You can support charity and have fun at the same time. If I were to stand at the front door of the casino and ask folks why they were there, I doubt I would hear anyone say that they were making a charitable donation. That is what the losers say the next day, if someone at work asks how it went. No one buys a Lotto649 ticket to give to charity. Those who make such a claim not only have an issue with gambling, but also lying. People don’t go to bingo, the casino, or a lottery kiosk to make a charitable donation.

Folks gamble, be it a slot machine, bingo, the race track, whatever it is, to obtain an exponential increase on their money. Now, that in itself is not sinful. An investor will buy stock or commodities anticipating an increase in value. Some of these markets are very risky. If one enters these volatile markets, it is necessary to do adequate analysis beforehand. To just jump into the market without proper investigation is not very different from buying a ticket for this weekend’s Super Max draw. One is not a good steward of the blessings God has given if he is willing to exchange it for a chance to win based on the roll of a dice or drop of a ball. Recall how upset the master was with the servant who buried the money placed in his hand (Matthew 25:24-30). This man, though identified as lazy and wicked, was more responsible than one who will lose money on a game of chance.

No one entering the arena of gambling does so with a desire for someone else to win his money. A desire to win is inherent in gambling. The gambler doesn’t want another to walk away with her money – she wants to walk away with the other person’s money. Can we reconcile that with the Christian character? Paul said that we should look out for the interests of others and not be selfish (Philippians 2:3-4). Can it be said of the one who exclaims, “BINGO!” that his concern is for others and not himself? If the slot machine pours out a bunch of coins into your bucket, realize that you just pocketed the losses of 100s of people who sat there before you.

Would you exploit others to your own benefit? It is despicable to do so. We have laws against such in the business world – but in the gambling world, it is acceptable for the winner to profit, not from the failure of one or two, but the masses.

The gambler hopes for everyone else to fail. How do we reconcile that with the Bible? Paul said that he did not seek his own profit, “but the profit of many” (1 Corinthians 10:33). Can we gather up our winnings from the table and in the next breath, with a good conscience invite those who will go home empty handed to church?

“I like the games,” one might say. Do you like the games more than the souls of men? Do you like the games more than your own soul? There is nothing wrong with the games – it’s the wager, the bet. You can play poker or bingo or blackjack for fun and for free. Leave the money out of it. Don’t gamble.


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