Gambling - It’s A Bad Bet!
By Pastor David L. Brown, Ph.D.
© February 1999
If you took a survey and asked people
what the most famous ship was, you would likely hear the names, the
Titanic, Lucitania or Queen Elizabeth. If you asked people to name a
famous president prior to the 20th Century you would probably hear a lot
of Lincoln and Washington. But what would your answer be if I asked you to
name a famous cow? The one that comes to mind is Mrs. O'Leary's cow. Many
believe that the great Chicago Fire of 1871 was started when Mrs.
O'Leary's cow kicked over a lantern. But did you know, there is another
account of how the fire got started and many believe it is much more
accurate. It seems that Mrs. O'Leary's son and his friends were in the
barn, involved in a lively gambling game called craps. In all the
excitement one of the shooters knocked over the lantern that started the
fire. You could say, it was the hottest game in town. (From "Lady Luck's
Companion" by Berger & Bruning; p 51).
The Pagan Origin of "GOOD
"Good luck!" I suppose I have used
this phrase hundreds of times. Many, over the years, have wished me the
same. But, the origin of the phrase is associated with one of the oldest
vices known to man -- GAMBLING. Here's the history…
The Romans worshipped a false goddess
named FORTUNA. She was the goddess of FORTUNE & CHANCE. The Roman poet
Juvenal wrote of her saying, "Thou wouldst have no divine power if we
were prudent." The Romans thought she was so powerful that even the
greater gods feared her whims. The Romans paid her great reverence holding
festivals in her honor and even erecting several temples for her. One of
those temples was called Felicitas which means "good fortune" or
"good luck." Her name or the name of her temple was invoked to wish
someone well who was gambling or taking a chance. It is plain to see "may
Lady Luck be your companion" or "good luck" is a pagan expression and not
a Christian one.
I was interested to read what 19th
century historian Andrew Steinmetz said about the false goddess;
"Fortuna, a selfish creature who could be placated only by cards,
counters, and dice, give birth to a ‘misfigured child’ known as ‘Gaming.
Then Gaming herself give birth to hideous twins. They were called Duelling
and Suicide, and they became Gaming's constant companions." (The word
GAMING is a synonym for gambling). He’s right. Twenty percent of
compulsive gamblers attempt suicide and while gun fights are not the
problem they were in the 1800’s, at least two-thirds of compulsive
gamblers turn to crime to finance their addiction and the crime rate in
gambling communities is nearly double the national average, according to
U.S. News & World Report.
Gambling has long been recognized as
a malignant sore on society. The Roman lawyer and satirist Juvenal
(60-140A.D.) characterized it as a domineering vice of the foolish.
Historian Steinmetz looked at gambling as a disfiguring, destructive vice,
that often involved murder or suicide.
The Glorification of
Several years back Hollywood came out
with a movie called, "THE GAMBLER." It included a song by that same name,
sung by country singer Kenny Rogers. The song glorified the gambling. In
the song, the "wise" old gambler shares his "wisdom." He says, I’ve "found
an ace that I can keep." And what was that Ace? -- "You gotta know when
to hold’em, know when to fold 'em. Know when to walk away, know when to
run. You never count your money when you're sittin at the table. There'll
be time enough for countin, when the dealin's done." Unfortunately,
the movie and song stimulated a lot of interest, especially among teen
males, in gambling.
What about today? Gambling is more
popular than ever. The get rich quick stories of those who win are
headlines in the newspapers and the "top story" on the evening news. That
is unfortunate, even tragic. In fact, when a state jumps into the gambling
pig pen and starts rooting for the gambling revenues, big problems occur.
"The number of compulsive gamblers will increase between 100 and 550
percent when gambling is brought into an area," according to
University of Illinois Professor John Kindt. The truth is, "when
gambling expands, so does the number of gambling addicts. It is estimated
that close to 10 million Americans now have a gambling habit that is out
of control—and the number is growing daily."
The Historic Problems With
Any state that substitutes the "get
rich quick" philosophy for industry and thrift is laying a cornerstone for
moral and economic disaster. I can almost hear the critics say, "Sounds
just like a fanatic preacher, speaking against having a little harmless
fun." Well, perhaps you will consider A. R. Spofford, Librarian of
Congress who wrote in 1892, "Experiences of the past have crystallized
into a general public conviction that LOTTERIES are to be regarded, in
direct proportion to their extension, as among the most dangerous and
prolific sources of human misery" (Lotteries In American History by A.
What caused Spofford to make such a
statement? State after state who had instituted lotteries began to
discover the same things that Pennsylvania discovered even before it was a
state. In 1752 Penn-sylvania's Provincial Assembly banned lotteries,
denouncing them as a public and common nuisance, stating in it's edict
that they were "introductive to vice, idleness and immorality;
injurious to trade commerce and industry; and against the common good,
welfare and peace of the province." Further, one of the worst fiascoes
in history was the 1823 Congressionally mandated Grand National Lottery,
which was instituted to finance road and canal improvements in Washington,
D.C. Tickets sold well, but the government wound up holding an empty bag
when after the agents who conducted the lottery ran off with every dime.
The Supreme Court got into the act and demanded that the Government pay
the winner the $100,000 sweepstakes prize. By 1860 all states but
Louisiana had banned state lotteries. In 1894 Louisiana finally outlawed
their lottery after discovering that of the $20 million dollars collected
only $40,000 found its way into the state treasury. HOW TRAGIC THAT WE
HAVE NOT LEARNED FROM HISTORY! Many states are doomed to learn the
hard way all over again. They will find that lotteries are not sound
economic projects. They take money out of circulation, reduce purchasing
power, divert money from legitimate investment, provide an unstable source
of revenue and place an added burden on the low income families. Not only
that, there are grave moral implications to boot!
My state has chosen to ignore history
and add to the vice problems by promoting gambling (lottery, pari-mutuel
betting and Indian casinos) as if it were a virtue. WHY? For the same
reason Casanova promoted the lottery in the 1700's. MONEY! But who was
Casanova? Have you ever heard someone being referred to as a "Casanova?"
The name is used to refer to a ladies man or womanizer. But, there was an
historical person by that name. His full name was Giovanni Jacopo (ya-ko-po)
Casanova. He was a writer, womanizer, adventurer and gambler. At the
height of his career, Casanova convinced the King of France to run a
lottery to raise money to build a military academy. Casanova would
super-vise the lottery and deduct a percentage for his part. Cash prizes
would be offered in a drawing and the king would get the rest for his
project. It was very successful. The king was happy, the people were
happy, and Casanova lined his pockets.
In fact, the reason my own state is
in the gambling PIG PEN ROOTING is because they smell THE REVENUE! But,
according to John Kindt’s testimony before a hearing of the U.S. House of
Representatives Committee on Small Business, "for every $1 the state
receives in gambling revenues, it costs the state at least $3 in increased
criminal-justice, social-welfare and other expenses.” And that’s not
all! Legalized gambling is a messy business! It brings addiction
(including adolescent addicts), family devastation, crime, poverty,
government corruption and economic burdens.
The Definition of Gambling
Just exactly what is gambling? Here
is the definition according to my dictionary: gamble, 1. to play at
any game of chance for stakes, 2. to stake or risk money or anything of
value, on the outcome of something involving chance: gamble on the result
of a race, 3. to lose or squander by betting. The Webster's Seventh New
Collegiate Dictionary adds, "to bet on an uncertain outcome."
The Three Elements of Gambling
The following three elements must be present for
something to be defined as gambling…
- A PAY-OFF
- THE ELEMENT OF
- THE STAKE (the
money or article of value) RISKED BY THE BETTOR
What Is And What Is Not
WHAT IS NOT GAMBLING
Giving of prizes is NOT gambling if
you do not have to risk anything to get the prize. Insurance
is not gambling. The purpose of insurance is to spread the liability and
risk of accident, illness, injury or death around. Insurance does not
create the risk. It is a universal risk that all people face. It is
probably the most effective way of seeing that needs and expenses
incurred, if such should happen, are able to be paid for. Stock
market is not gambling. Gambling is generally a win or lose
proposition. If you buy a lottery ticket, you either win or lose. In the
stock market if you buy $100 dollars worth of stock, generally your stock
will go up or down, but you do not usually lose your entire $100. Buying
stock certainly is SPECULATING, but there is a difference between
speculation and gambling. But, I think that those in the FUTURES MARKET
may well be gambling, as they are betting that the prices of things will
go up. If they go down, they have to pay the "margin" or difference. What
about Sweepstakes and contests such as, the Readers Digest,
Publishers Clearing House or supermarket contests? While not strictly
gambling, "many people get hooked on such gimmicks and the danger is
that a false philosophy of financial gain is developed." (Gambling;
Dr. Kober, p 3).
WHAT IS GAMBLING
Many of us got our first taste of
gambling on the school play-ground flipping baseball cards, playing
marbles for keeps or pitching pennies. When mom found out I was playing
odd or even with my marbles, she put an end to it quickly. That was
gambling and that was not allowed in our family. But, that is small change
compared to hard line gambling. Let's look at and define some categories
Gaming – playing for money in
any game of chance, such as slot machines, Roulette, bingo, craps, pay-off
pinball machines, punch boards, dream books, chain letters, pyramid money
games, poker, black-jack, etc.
Betting – staking money on an
event which the outcome is doubtful. Examples are, horse or dog racing,
cock or dog fights, tennis, hockey, football, basketball, hockey,
baseball, pool, etc. You can bet on just about anything.
Lotteries – A lottery is the
distribution of prizes by the drawing of lots. Most states run a variety
of lotteries. Pick three and power-ball are among the most popular in our
Sweepstakes and Raffles – More
than 50 countries around the world have sweepstakes, like the Irish
Sweepstakes. Technically, a raffel is a lottery where each participant is
buying a chance to win. If you buy a ticket or two for a good cause, with
the purpose of it being a donation to a worthy organization, I do not see
any problem with that.
Pools – A combination of
betting and lotteries. The most popular is the check pool at work, though
there are football pools, etc.
In summary, all the above are
recognized as gambling because each clearly contains the three elements of
gambling - 1) A payoff 2) The element of chance 3) The stake that is
The Biblical Reasons To
Historically, the Bible preaching
church has long looked upon gambling as incompatible with the Christian
life. Early Church pastor, Tertullian said, "If you say that you are a
Christian when you are a dice-player, you say you are what you are not,
because you are a partner with the world." (Money, Mania, Morals by L.
Starkey Jr. p.35).
5 BIBLICAL REASONS TO REJECT
FIRST, GAMBLING IS IDOLATROUS
God commands us to live a life of
faith and trust in the Lord Jesus Christ. Proverbs 3:5-6 makes that clear.
We are under God's providential care. When a person gambles, the focus is
all together different. The focus shifts to LUCK, CHANCE & FORTUNE. A
careful study of Isaiah 65:11-12a makes it clear that God abhorred that
kind of behavior then and he abhors that kind of behavior now.
SECOND, GAMBLING IS STEALING
"The gains of the winners are paid
at the expense of the losers. In winning, one receives the wages that
another person has earned without giving anything in exchange."
(Gambling, Kober; p.2 & 8). Just because it is robbery by consent does not
make it right. Gambling is nothing more than sophisticated stealing.
Ephesians 4:28 says "Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let
him labour, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may
have to give to him that needeth."
The late Dr. M. R. DeHann said,
"Gambling is morally wrong, for its expressed purpose is to obtain
material gain apart from honest, productive toil, and at the expense of
one's neighbor! In fact, it is little more than refined stealing! One
cannot truly love his neighbor as himself and still seek to practice such
robbery by consent."
THIRD, GAMBLING IS BASED ON COVETOUSNESS
Gambling is an attempt to get
something for nothing twisted by the willingness to take a risk. It is the
desire to "get rich quick" without working for it. The desire to gamble is
fueled by the love of money and we know "the love of money is the root
of all [kinds of] evil" (I Timothy 6:10). Note the rest of the verse,
"…which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and
pierced them-selves through with many sorrows."
We are warned about the "something
for nothing" and the "get rich quick" craving in the Bible. Proverbs 10:4
says "He becometh poor that dealeth with a slack hand: but the hand of
the diligent maketh rich." Again Proverbs 28:20 & 22 says "A
faithful [honest] man shall abound with blessings: but he that maketh
haste to be rich shall not be innocent. He that hasteth to be rich hath an
evil eye, and considereth not that poverty shall come upon him."
Finally, Proverbs 13:11 says "Wealth gotten by vanity shall be
diminished: but he that gathereth by labour shall increase." One
writer paraphrased it this way – “Wealth from gambling quickly
disappears; wealth from hard work grows.”
FOURTH, GAMBLING IS POOR STEWARDSHIP OF WHAT GOD HAS ENTRUSTED TO YOUR
I Corinthians 4: 1-2 says, "Let a
man so account of us, as of the ministers of Christ, and stewards of the
mysteries of God. More-over it is required in stewards, that a man be
found faithful." I believe "to risk money haphazardly in gambling is to
completely disregard the Biblical truth that our possessions are a trust
for which we must someday give full account to God!" (M. R. DeHaan)
Mississippi riverboat gambler, George Devol, used to like to trick
ministers into betting against him. They would always lose and then Devol
would give them their money back accompanied by this advice: "Go and
sin no more." Friends, that is good advice for us today!
FIFTH, GAMBLING IS ADDICTIVE
I Corinthians 6:12 says "All
things are lawful unto me, but all things are not expedient: all things
are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any."
There is only one thing that is to be in control of the believer’s life
and that is THE HOLY SPIRIT (Ephesians 5:18). There is no doubt that
gambling is addictive. It "gets in your blood". Edgar Allan Poe was a
compulsive gambler and so was famous gambler, Nick the Greek (Nicholas
Andrea Dandolos). He won as much as $50 million in a single night. By his
account, he went from rags to riches and back again 73 times in his life.
During his life time he won and lost more than $500 million. He died
broke, on Christmas day in 1966.
Time will not permit me to go any
further, but there are other problems with gambling. Here are just a few
-- It increases crime, corrupts government, causes family problems,
depresses legitimate business, increases welfare costs, produces human
desperation and produces a wrong attitude toward work.
If you want more information, I
suggest you write for the following –
One-Armed Bandits on the Rise:
Will Wisconsin continue to expand gambling?; Family Research Institute
• 123 E. Doty St, Ste 206 • Madison, WI 53703-3321 • (608) 256-3370 (I
suggest you send $1.00 with your request. This is a one page report front
What Payoff Can You Expect From
Gambling?; Focus On The Family • Colorado Springs, CO 80995 • Item #
FC067 • 1-800-A-Family • 25 brochures for a suggested donation of $5.00
Gambling: A Bad Bet by Norman
L. Geisler and Thomas A. Howe; Published by Fleming H. Revell • Available
through Focus On The Family • Colorado Springs, CO 80995 • Item # BP002 •
Suggested Donation $8.00
LOGOS COMMUNICATION CONSORTIUM, Inc.
P.O. Box 173
Oak Creek, WI 53154
Phone (414) 768-9754
A U.S. News & World Report
analysis found crime rates in casino communities to be 84% higher than the
Domestic violence and child abuse
increase dramatically when gambling comes to an area.
University of Illinois economist Earl
Grinols has calculated that 52% of casino revenues come from active
problem and pathological gamblers.
Teens are three times as likely as
adults to become addicted to gambling once exposed & at least 1 in 10
teens engages in illegal activity (stealing, shoplifting, selling drugs,
or prostitution) to finance their gambling.
The National Council on Problem
Gambling reports that one in five pathological gamblers attempts suicide –
a higher rate than that of any other addictive disorder.
For every $1 the state receives in
gambling revenues, it costs the state at least $3 in increased
criminal-justice, social-welfare and other expenses.
Back to Being
Berean: Various Subjects and The Bible's Answers