Is Gambling a Sin?
Study No. 98
At Caesarís Palace In Las Vegas
Many people would give a lot of money to be where I am right now. In fact many people are doing just that. I wouldnít give a nickel (U.S. $0.05) for it all. What is "fun"? What is "pleasure" to you? Your answer to these basic questions reveals a lot about you.
I am at Caesarís Palace in glittering Las Vegas, Nevada attending a computer seminar on behalf of my employer. This place is aptly named, for the decadence which led to the decline and fall of the Roman Empire is openly practiced at Caesarís Palace. Caesarís is one of the most glamorous hotel/resort/casinos on the famous "Las Vegas strip." Las Vegas is the gambling capital of America, perhaps of the world. Millions of gambling, night club hopping tourists spend billions of dollars in this little spot in the midst of a barren desert. To have an all expenses paid trip to a luxury hotel in the midst of Las Vegas would be a dream come true for many. It means nothing to me. I came here to learn about computers, not to gamble and revel.
This is a report to you of Las Vegas and its popular "pleasures." I will keep asking you the question: is this your idea of "fun" and "pleasure"?
Caesarís Palace is a beautiful place. Water fountains are brilliantly lit up at night. Marble statues of Roman emperors, naked gods and goddesses adorn this "palace." Long, elevated escalators called "people movers" escort visitors into the resort, along with the recorded voice of "Caesar" welcoming you to this "palace of pleasure" of the Roman Empire. For $50 you can experience an authentic Roman feast, a "bacchanal." The casino winds seemingly endlessly for acres. Hundreds of slot machines, gaming tables for roulette, baccarat, craps, blackjack and poker are jammed with people all day and most of the night seven days a week. Keno (a game in which you select numbers from 1 through 80) is very popular. One huge area is the sports betting area, with horse race data, sports events listed and giant television screens showing several sports events from around the country. One can bet on almost any sports event. Plush carpets, dim lights, sparkling brass and crystal fixtures give the casino atmosphere a luxurious, pleasing texture.
In order to attract crowds, the casinos on the strips have some of the worldís most illustrious and creative neon lights. Meals are advertised at low prices to gain more customers. World famous entertainers such as Bill Cosby, Joan Rivers, Tom Jones, etc. are currently playing at night shows. Caesarís Palace entertainment showcase is called the "Circus Maximus."
Watching people gamble is literally an education. Casino staff are trained to be stoic, unemotional professionals. High stakes are bet on the gaming tables without any emotion. The gamblers, especially the ones playing the slot machines, seem to be machines themselves, putting in coin after coin and pulling the lever of the "one-armed bandit." Are the retired people, or the younger people here really having "fun"?
Once in a while someone strikes it rich with a big payoff. One of the convention goers here won over $200,000. Perhaps that individual had fun for the moment. However, federal taxes are deducted before the payoff is made. Does such a jackpot winner wisely invest the remainder of the big winnings or is it wasted and soon spent? Would you find true happiness if you became a big "winner"? There arenít many happy, smiling people in the smoke-filled casinos. One of the most obvious things observed was that casinos all look the same. They all have the same equipment and the same games. The odds are in favor of the house. Most gamblers are losers.
Even at the restaurants at Caesarís, you cannot escape gambling. There are Keno cards at every table, and scantily clad female "Keno runners" will take your cards and wagers. Keno screens announce the numbers drawn.
The Other "Pleasures"
One cannot escape what is going on in this place. Prostitution must be Nevadaís second largest business. I was asked by a flashily dressed lady if I wanted some "companionship." No, I did not. Instead of the normal newspaper stands, in Las Vegas you can pick up a free copy of the "Las Vegas Bachelor Guide." This "wholesome," "family" magazine has pictures of semi-nude women with their telephone numbers. Laura hawks her services "Letís explore our fantasies together . . . Iím waiting for your call." Itís a sex supermarket. If you like sex resorts, there is the Chicken Ranch. No, this ranch does not provide hens for Kentucky Fried Chicken. It is a "legal, licensed brothel" as the ad says. It has a well stocked bar, jacuzzi, and a 3,200 foot runway so that you can fly in your private plane for a weekend of "fun." The 18 ladies of the Chicken Ranch must be attractive as well as intelligent. They provide "quality company." You see, prostitution is legal in Nevada. Sure itís illegal in other states, but itís commonly ignored by most policemen and judges in this country. Nevada is openly pro-gambling and pro-prostitution.
What about these ladies? Their "profession" may be the oldest, but do they really have "fun" doing what they are doing? Do you suppose for one minute that they lead happy, healthy lives? Is it fun?
Gambling and prostitution seem to be beneficial for the owners of places like Caesarís Palace and for the State of Nevada. The University of Nevada has ample funds for modern buildings and a large staff, not needing to charge the excessive tuition that other colleges must to cover costs. Without gambling, prostitution and other "tourism" businesses, Nevada would not be the wealthy state it is, having only mining such as silver (which is now in a down cycle) for its economy.
Drinking water in Nevada might not be best and most plentiful in this desert state, but that is not a problem since alcohol is the stateís liquid supply. Alcoholic drinks are cheap and plentiful. Is all this drunkenness and gambling "fun"? I laughed when I saw that a Las Vegas gasoline station offers free aspirin to get rid of hangover headaches!
Gambling, prostitution, alcohol and drugs are the traditional staple products specialized in by organized crime syndicates. Every coin in the slot machines adds a little to the behind the scenes collection plate of "fun loving" gangsters.
People Love Gambling
Nevada and its top gambling spots of Las Vegas and Reno are facing some stiff competition these days. State lotteries are springing up all over the United States. There are a number of congressional bills seeking to establish a national American lottery to reduce the national debt. For readers in the United Kingdom and British Commonwealth, this may seem to be archaic. Great Britain, Australia and New Zealand surpass America in gambling activities. Indeed, gambling is a worldwide phenomenon that has most of the worldís inhabitants enthralled. State lotteries take in vast sums of money for local governments, which is touted as "painless taxation." The take of lotteries rivals that of casino and illegal gambling. U.S. voters, while hating taxes, love lotteries, which supposedly reduce taxes. They have approved every lottery ballot measure since New Hampshire started the modern lottery movement in 1964.
Watching a casino roulette gambler here at Caesarís I was amazed that people were betting on single numbers, because the odds are 37 to 1 against them. The house always wins in these cases. In state lotteries, the odds can be several million to one! Yet people stampede to buy lottery tickets. On the first day of the Missouri lottery in 1986, the state grossed $5.6 million ($1.14 for every person in the state). State lotteries pay back only 45% of each dollar gambled, odds far more in favor of the house than at any casino. Thomas Jefferson said, "The lottery is a wonderful thing: It lays the taxation only on the willing."
Americans, Britons, indeed almost all peoples love to gamble. Most people think it is fun to try to "strike it rich."
Religion And Gambling
Sooner or later an honest person will ask the question "Is gambling a sin?" Most will avoid the question or merely concentrate on the problem of compulsive gamblers. According to a 1975 study by the Survey Research Center, about 1.1 million American adults are compulsive gamblers, and about three times that number are borderline "gambler-holics." Many Australians and New Zealanders are overboard into gambling. Their newspapers have huge track racing sections daily. Stories of fathers gambling away all the family savings to the impoverishment of their children are true. But, is even moderate, controlled gambling an acceptable action in the sight of the Creator? Letís face this issue squarely.
Religion in general today avoids this "dead" moral issue. You see, morality has declined to such a low level that items that were once great moral issues are now non-issues, such as Divorce and Remarriage and gambling.
The University of Nevada at Las Vegas has a great collection of books on gambling. A few, written mainly before 1900, are against gambling. There is almost no current material on the subject of gambling from a moral, Biblical viewpoint.
Nevadaís dominant religion is the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, the Mormons. If the Mormons wanted to, they could put a stop to gambling and prostitution in Nevada. Are they silent because they profit from the influx of gambling and prostitution money into their state?
Some members of Sabbath keeping churches such as the Worldwide Church of God, and Church of God International gamble during the Feast of Tabernacles celebrations. Garner Ted Armstrong has been seen gambling for high stakes in a Nevada casino, all the while claiming to be a minister of Jesus Christ.
It is almost impossible to find any religion, other than extreme fundamentalists, that is against all forms of gambling. Religion has promoted gambling. From Roman Catholic Church bingo to state lotteries, self professed "Christians" have advanced the prevalence of gambling. Caesarís Palace exists because religion has approved it, because religious people enjoy gambling. Is gambling "fun" and "pleasure" to you?
What Gambling Is
Let us define gambling.
Gambling is the determination of the ownership of property by appeal to chance. Chance is the resultant play of natural forces that cannot be controlled or calculated by those who appeal to it. Most games of chance have some degree of skill, such as horse racing. Godly labor, or human effort, is the natural basis of the right of property. Some proportion of property must be guaranteed to the individual who exerts himself in productive labor. Gambling, however, is the denial of all system in the apportionment of property. (Betting and Gambling, A National Evil, by B. Seebohm Rowntree, New York: 1905.)
Gambling is an activity in which the players voluntarily transfer money or something else of value among themselves contingent upon the outcome of some future and uncertain event. Apparently, games of chance originated out of religious and magical practices. As we shall see, gambling and appealing to chance are mentioned frequently in the Bible.
Jewish moralists have opposed gambling but the practice of gambling has been widespread among Jews since the Middle Ages. Catholics hold that nothing is wrong with gambling provided that the game is honest, the stakes moderate and within the means of the players, and the money staked is oneís own.
The "Protestant work ethic," however, is squarely opposed to gambling. Protestant fundamentalists hold that gambling violates godly work habits, prudence, thrift, and principles of fair play with reward for effort. (International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences, article "Gambling.")
Playing the stock market is gambling. This means buying stock without the idea to invest in the companyís growth, in the hope that by chance the value of the stock will increase. Speculating in commodities is likewise gambling if one buys or sells simply on the blind hope that the market will turn oneís way. Company sports pools based on the total number of runs scored by various combinations of teams is a form of lottery.
Gambling is as common to man as religion. Romans and Greeks gambled freely. Tacitus in his Germania described the gambling fever of the early Germanic peoples, who would stake their liberty at dice. Germanic and English peoples have long been avid gamblers. The Encyclopedia Britannica (article "Gambling") says that "Gambling has existed in every known society from the most primitive to the most complex." Here is the Britannicaís definition of gambling: "Gambling is the betting or staking of something of value, with consciousness of risk and hope of gain, on the outcome of a game, a contest, or an uncertain event whose result may be determined by chance or accident or which may gave an unexpected result by reason of the bettorís miscalculation."
The casual gambler often does not feel that he or she is gambling when they risk a small amount they can afford without deprivation. Twenty dollars to a middle class American is not of much value. Charitable lotteries give the gambler an excuse for gambling, and justifying it by contributing to a "good cause." A superior golfer may wager on his success at a game of golf and claim that it is not gambling but based on skill only. This is not so, because he may have misjudged his opponentís skill, or on occasion he may not play his usual game.
Here are some examples of things that have some features of gambling but are not actually gambling. Mail order sweepstakes usually offer something to sell along with a "free" drawing. For example, if you want to buy their product, you mail off the order blank and are automatically entered in a free drawing. A new store may have a free promotional drawing to encourage new customers. This is not gambling. Those who make a profession of seeking out and entering free contests and drawings demonstrate that if you enter enough contests as many times as possible, sooner or later you are likely to win something. This may not actually be gambling but it can be a waste of time.
Buying a home instead of renting is not gambling. Real estate values may rise and fall, but the home buyer is providing shelter based upon an economic decision, weighing all risks. There is a definite payback in living in a house, unlike the uncertainty of a payoff in gambling. Those who speculate in the housing market hoping for a big payoff when the market goes up are indeed gambling. There are many risks we must take in our daily lives that are not gambling. Insurance is NOT gambling, but a method to share risks and the expenses involved in unforeseen accidents. If an accident occurs to insured property or persons, there is a certain payoff, unlike the chance in gambling.
Results of Legalized Gambling
We need to expose gambling for what it is: an immoral system that is a curse on our society. Even the non-Christian should oppose legalized gambling. Analyzing legalized gambling today, several hard realities can be proven:
(1) Legalization of gambling stimulates illegal gambling and encourages related types of crime. Organized crime can step in and offer their customers better odds because illegal winnings are not taxed. Bookies offer credit and other types of gambling, such as sports betting. Gambling encourages white collar crime because middle class high stakes players may lose big and resort to embezzlement or thievery in order to support their habit and pay off their debts.
(2) Legalized gambling produces a substantial increase in the number of compulsive gamblers. A Delaware study reported that 86 percent of compulsive gamblers commit felonies. The American Insurance Institute estimates that as much as 40 percent of U.S. white collar crime comes from compulsive gamblers. Experts say gamblers are made not born, and that legalized gambling encourages those on the edge to cross over the line.
(3) Legalized gambling is not a significant source of state revenue and creates few if any jobs. No one has yet seen their state taxes go down because of the lottery. California, which dedicates its lottery revenues to public education, dropped state funding of education by the exact amount contributed by the state lottery. Legislators merely shifted tax monies to other areas.
(4) Gambling hurts the poor because most betting is done by lower and lower-middle income individuals who can ill afford to waste their money trying to strike it rich. Studies have shown that poor are three to seven times more likely to bet on the lottery than the rich. Lotteries are in effect a regressive tax soaking the poor.
The Bible and Gambling
What does the Bible say about gambling? There is no direct Biblical prohibition against gambling. However, many principles and examples are given, allowing us to draw proper spiritual conclusions.
Samson wagered 30 shirts and changes of garments with the Philistines to see if they could guess his riddle, Judges 14:12-13. Due to Philistine pressure on his bride, he lost the bet and in anger Samson slew 30 Philistines to pay off the debt, verses 14-19. There were a lot of bad repercussions from this one bet. In spite of his sins, the Eternal used Samson to free His people from the Philistines.
The garments of the impaled Messiah were parted by lot, Psalm 22:18, Matthew 27:35, Luke 23:34, John 19:23-24. Haman, the enemy of the Jews, cast lots to fix the time of execution of the Jews, Esther 3:7, 9:24. The enemies of Judah and Jerusalem cast lots for Godís people, Joel 3:3, Obadiah 11. These are additional examples of wrong use of games of chance, of gambling.
Numerous Biblical passages show the correct use of "chance," that is, appeal to "natural" forces that cannot be controlled by those who appeal to it. These are not "gambling" because property was not given up, and the "chance" was not whim but the divine will of the Creator. Man has long desired to know the specific will of His Creator. The Eternal gave a physical means of knowing His will, the Urim and Thummim (Hebrew: "lights" and "perfections"). In Exodus 28:30 we are told they were part of Aaronís "breastplate of judgment." Not a word describes them in detail. They are mentioned as things already familiar to Moses and the people, and connected naturally with the functions of the high priest who mediated between YHWH and His people, Leviticus 8:8. The scapegoat was chosen by lot, Leviticus 16:8-10. The land of Canaan was divided among the tribes by lot, Numbers 26:55, Joshua 18:10, Acts 13:19, Isaiah 34:17. The garments of Aaron were passed on to his son Eleazar, Numbers 20:28. When Joshua succeeds Moses, he is told to stand before Eleazar, "who shall ask counsel for him after the judgment of Urim" Numbers 27:21. The Urim and Thummim are the crowning glory of the tribe of Levi, Deuteronomy 33:8-9, Ezra 2:63.
Achanís guilt was determined by lot, Joshua 7:14-18. Saul was chosen king by lot, I Samuel 10:20-21. The order of service by priests and Levites was determined by lot, I Chronicles 24:5-31, 26:13. Jonathan was identified by lot, I Samuel 14:41-42. So was Jonah, Jonah 1:7. The Jews returning from captivity determined by lot who would live in Jerusalem, Nehemiah 11:1. The eleven apostles cast lots between two candidates to allow God to decide who should replace Judas Iscariot, Acts 1:26.
In most of these instances, lots were used to determine the Almightyís will. Proverbs 16:33, "The lot is cast into the lap; but the whole disposing thereof is of the LORD." Proverbs 18:18, "The lot causeth contentions to cease, and parteth between the mighty [RSV: decides between powerful contenders]."
Josephus states that the Urim and Thummim stones gave the Eternalís answer by illuminating. He reports that the priestís breastplate stopped illuminating 200 years before Christ, (Antiquities of the Jews, 5:2:1, 3:8:9, 3:7:5). Others say that the stones were part of the priestís garment and symbolic of the Lord giving His word to the priest. I Samuel 14:3, 18-19, 41-42, 23:4,9, 11-12, Judges 20:9, 27-28 and II Samuel 5:19, 23 show direct statements of the Eternal made as the result of inquiry. I Samuel 28:6 shows three means the Eternal used to communicate with His people: dreams, Urim and prophets.
In all Scriptural examples of the correct use of the lot to determine Godís will, it was a priest, prophet or apostle or other representative of the Eternal who was authorized to use this method of discerning Godís will. The ordinary person is not to use lots. The Bible shows that unscrupulous persons resort to chance to further their own selfish interests.
Why Gambling is Wrong
(1) Gambling discourages honest labor. The Bible supports the concept of the so-called "Protestant work ethic." Proverbs 14:23 (Amplified) tells us, "In all labor there is profit, but idle talk leads only to poverty." Profit should come through productive labor, not by chance.
"Wealth not earned but won in haste, or unjustly, or from the production of things for vain or detrimental use, such riches will dwindle away; but he who gathers little by little will increase them" Proverbs 13:11 (Amplified). See also Proverbs 28:19.
(2) Gambling encourages greed, materialism and discontent. See Luke 12:15, Hebrews 13:5, I Timothy 6:6-10, Psalm 62:10. Lottery promotions induce people to covet the money of others. Gambling such as lotteries are engaged in by people hoping to win a lot of money without earning it, which is a dishonest attitude. Money won in gambling comes from other players, including some who can ill afford to gamble. Gambling in its essence is a form of robbery, which is stealing. Each gambler wants to get the prize money for himself. It encourages greedy obsession with material wealth, which is having another god in place of the true Creator. Gambling directly breaks the first, eighth and tenth commandments, and all the others in principle.
Gambling is basically LUST. Anyone with the Spirit of the Eternal should be able to discern this fact. Here at Caesarís Palace, Las Vegas, Nevada, where "pleasure" and self-indulgence reign supreme, lust is everywhere.
I John 2:15-17, "Love not the world neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever."
Proverbs 21:25-26, "The desire of the slothful killeth him; for his hands refuse to labour. He coveteth greedily all the day long: but the righteous giveth and spareth not."
(3) Gambling encourages "get rich quick" thinking. See Proverbs 28:20, 22; 21:5.
Proverbs 23:4-5, "Labour not to be rich: cease from thine own wisdom. Wilt thou set thine eyes upon that which is not? for riches certainly make themselves wings; they fly away as an eagle toward heaven."
(4) Gambling encourages reckless investment of God-given resources. See Matthew 25:14-30. If gambling is "fun" and "pleasure" to you, you already have your reward. If you are denying yourself, serving the Eternal 100% with your time and resources, you will not make the pitifully weak (and false) excuse: "But I have a right to throw away my money at gambling!" You know that your life, your wealth are not yours. If you follow the Bible, you are a slave to the Messiah. You, your money, everything you have are His. Would Jesus gamble? Definitely not!
Sabbath keepers who spend second tithe on gambling are no different than infidels who spend their allotted vacation money on gambling. Gambling, prostitution, drunkenness and ribald night clubs are no atmosphere for the Bible believer. One year we kept the Feast of Tabernacles at Squaw Valley, California, across the border from Reno, Nevadaís other gambling Mecca. One evening of the Feast we went over to Nevada to a dinner show where we heard male vocalist Ed Ames. Mr. Ames' music is generally very wholesome and uplifting. However I have often felt since that time that a gambling casino was no atmosphere for us to be in. Jesus was invited to dinners given by Pharisees as well as tax collectors. He preached the truth wherever He went, but He did not support corrupt practices.
Satan is a gambler. He should know that the "house" (the Father) has the odds in its favor. The devil lost before and soon Satan will stake it all on a last desperate gamble to overthrow his Maker. What foolishness!
Salvation is no gamble. It is sure.
The only question is whether we are going to patiently remain faithful, steadfast to the end. Or are we going to foolishly risk it all on the fleeting lusts and pleasures of this world?
Which would you prefer: Caesarís Palace with its glitter and lustful pleasures and the friends of this world? Or a cool forested hideaway with clean air and water, with a few of the Eternalís people? Lot took the popular plain of Sodom, while Abraham took the sparsely populated hills. Godís country is "where the pleasure is."
Psalms 16:11, "Thou wilt shew me the path of life: in thy presence is fullness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore."
Gambling is a sin.
Compulsive gamblers can overcome their obsession with gambling by and through the power of the Almighty. Gambling is a curse, closely associated with gangsterism, prostitution, theft, narcotics, and drunkenness. Is it right for people to prey on the lusts and greedy appetites of others? Is it right to throw money down a rat hole, for no constructive purpose other than "entertainment"? To attempt to get something for nothing, without working for it? NO!
Gambling is the opposite of love. Its prime motive is to get, which is Satanís way. Godís way is one of giving and sharing. Casinos exist to take your money, trying to make it appear as painless as possible. True love is to give and share. An honest dayís work for honest wages. Constructive, honest and productive labor builds character. Gambling builds lust, greed, cheating, and selfishness. There are no positive attributes of gambling. Any "charity" that resorts to gambling for fund raising is wrong.
Stay away from all forms of gambling. Labor honestly for productive wealth. Wisely use your resources for the Eternalís services.
Donít be a loser. Donít gamble. W
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