I learnt my lesson about the hazards of gambling many years ago! I was at school, and I lost my fish & chip lunch money in a fruit machine, and went hungry for the rest of the day! Yet this is small fry (excuse the pun) compared to the losses that some people experience today.
One of the most startling additions to television in recent years, has been the huge increase in the advertising of on-line gambling sites. Not a single run of adverts passes by without at least one on-line gambling website being promoted. There area number of points that are worth noting as we consider the ethics and morality of gambling, and its phenomenal rise as a legitimate business.
Firstly, the ‘hook’. For a small minority of gamblers to win big money, and for gambling companies to continue in business, what is required is for the vast majority of gamblers to lose money. Gambling companies rely on the ‘hook’ promising that ‘everyone is a potential winner’ (though not everyone will be a winner). In effect the prize winnings of the ‘lucky few’ are made up by the multiple losses of others (always the majority). The ‘hook’ draws you in, and acts like a drug. Yet in the same breath, gambling companies advise their customer to ‘gamble responsibly’. Yet many people do not have the discipline to gamble sensibly, and take reckless financial decisions in order to try and increase their chances of winning.
Secondly, having a big win does not solve all your problems. It is estimated that half of those who secure big wins on the lottery or through gambling,end up bankrupt within a few years. The desire for a big gambling win is driven by the desire for a lifestyle that most people ordinarily will never be able to afford. This leads many into spiralling debt, and for some, provides more justification to gamble. A self-made hell with no way out.
That is not how God wants us to live, or manage our money and resources. The bible has much to say about money and wisdom; and in his letter to the Romans, Paul said this – ‘owe nothing to anyone – except your obligation to love one an- other’ (Roman 13.8). Gambling is at heart a love of self (even if sometimes winners do share their winnings!). Alternatively, patient saving, generosity to those in need, spending kept under control, denying ourselves unnecessary expensive luxuries, and finding true contentment in being thankful for what we have, are wonderful antidotes to the temptations and hazards of gambling!
Revd Andy Grant