Yes, it’s wrong to gamble

“Profiting from the weakness and misfortune of others is no way to treat a neighbor.” - World


Waiting to hear from Christians who believe gambling falls under Christian Liberty since the Bible never specifically prohibits gambling.

Wally Morris
Huntington, IN

It’s at this point that even so-called responsible gambling fails morally, because gambling is a zero-sum activity. For one person to win, someone else has to lose. Christians of all stripes once understood this. The skilled gambler, argued the old Princeton theologian Charles Hodge, takes advantage “of the unwary or unskillful to deprive them of their property without compensation.” William Temple, archbishop of Canterbury in the early 1940s, wrote that gambling was not only poor stewardship for the loser of a bet but poor behavior for the winner: “The attempt (inseparable from gambling) to make profit out of the inevitable loss and possible suffering of others is the antithesis of that love of one’s neighbor on which our Lord insisted.”

With respect to "the old Princeton theologian" and the archbishop, gambling involves games of both skill and chance (so-called). As long as these games are run above board and the participants understand the risk/reward outcomes, these games are nothing more than another form of entertainment. In other words, if I lose money gambling, I do so understanding that's part of the game. No one is stealing from me or causing me to suffer if they win. Also, in some casino games, there can be multiple winners at the same time.

I've played card games before with friends, wagering nothing but pennies or poker chips, and it was entertaining, challenging, and a good time with friends. We all played the game with the same motivation and understanding. Was I exercising poor stewardship or suffering because I lost some pennies or poker chips?

That said, the only real gambling I've done was I bought a few scratch offs while I was in high school (and won more than I spent), and I put $10 in a slot machine in Vegas once when my wife and I went to Vegas for a Tony Bennett concert.

I view serious gambling as poor stewardship more than anything. The odds are never in your favor. My former boss would go to Vegas and spend crazy amounts of money gambling at the Cosmo. I watched her once, and she was putting down amounts each hand that were more than my monthly mortgage payment. She was a regular at the Cosmo, and the casino would put her up in nice rooms, give her tickets to shows, and provide meals. But, she and her husband were also senior executives at my company, so she could afford the money she was losing. Their combined annual income was several million dollars, and they lived a completely different life than most of us.

That said, if you want to gamble occasionally as a form of entertainment, I see it no differently than spending the same amount of money on any other form of entertainment. Ever take your family to Disney World? The amount of money you spend there is immoral. the principle that I'd carry to gambling. Given that you're almost certain to lose money on the transaction, the first thing you can say is that it's bad stewardship. And then you need to ask yourself about the motivations for the gambling. When it's the lottery, it's that dream of having enough for the big splurge, or possibly even never need to work again. So it's rejection of the Biblical need to work, greed....

I guess for a certain number of people, the excitement of the game--e.g. penny poker--can be sufficient, but I'm guessing that the bulk of gamblers are doing so for less Biblical reasons.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Why do we participate in or watch any competitive sport or game? We want to experience the thrill of victory, either as participants or spectators. We can certainly make it sound more noble: I want to learn teamwork, I want to build a strong work ethic, I want to develop discipline. But, let's be honest and acknowledge that we compete to win (1 Cor 9:24-27).

When when it comes to gambling, greed can certainly be a factor. But, for those who enjoy the challenge of beating the house or the skill of winning regardless of the hand your dealt, I view it as a form of entertainment.

I spent $500 for two concert tickets once. I guess I could have instead spent that $500 on scratch offs. It's the same $500. If I could afford to spend the money, what is the difference? They both provide entertainment value, whereas one gives me the possibility (albeit very small) of winning significant money.

I did a study, that was later published in an established peer reviewed journal, that showed that state lotteries that fund education is essentially a tax on poor minorities that contribute to a redistribution of wealth from poor communities to middle and upper class communities, by studying the SC State Lottery. The liberal establishment totally misses this aspect of these lotteries.

I dare say that all government establishments are slow on the uptake regarding the "tax on people who are bad at math", as I see a lot of casinos and state lotteries (e.g. South Carolina) that are run by people who are emphatically not liberal. Now desperation might deprive the poor of those resources anyways, but it would be nice if the state wasn't encouraging them.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

When the Powerball gets above $1Billon, that's the only time I'm tempted to buy a lottery ticket. How much do PowerBall tickets cost? $3? I see it primarily as fantasy and entertainment, knowing the odds are stacked against me. For those who can't afford it yet still purchase lottery tickets every week, it's more than entertainment. It's a desperate attempt to alleviate their poverty.

Interesting to see some weak arguments for defending gambling as "entertainment". Christian liberty all over again. Sad.

Wally Morris
Huntington, IN


If I play cards with my friends, and no money is exchanged, is it wrong?

If I play cards with my friends, and we use matchsticks for wagers, is it wrong?

If I play cards with my friends, and we use pennies for wagers, is it wrong?

If I play cards with my friends, and we use $100 bills for wagers (assuming we can afford it), is it wrong?

I'm trying to understand when you believe the Bible condemns playing cards. Is it only wrong when we use significant amounts of money? Cannot someone play cards with friends just for fun and entertainment? Without sinning?

I don't gamble, but to be honest the article provides very little Scriptural support for the position that gambling is wrong. It fails to define gambling and it fails to deal with the variations of gambling.

For example, the author states, "the Westminster Shorter Catechism states that the Eighth Commandment requires “the lawful procuring and furthering the wealth and outward estate of ourselves and others.”

So if someone wants to walk up to a video poker machine (and no it is not a game of chance), the individual is wealthy and wants to play $10 of quarters for entertainment, are they profiting from the weakness of others? Are they not exchanging $10 for entertainment, similar to spending $10 for a ticket for a show? If we are to procur and further the wealth of others, as stated in the quote above, are they not procuring the wealth of the machine owner?

This isn't the 1800's where someone is in a saloon playing a game of poker with his last bit of money while his family is starving back on the farm. So I think if an argument is going to be made, we need to be clear about definitions, understand what it looks like today, and have a solid biblical argument. I think there is some clear black and white areas, but I think there is a lot of gray and diligence must be made to clearly navigate the gray.

My wife and I have spent $5.00 and had an hour of fun putting pennies into a penny pusher. Is that gambling? Could be depending upon what is lost and gained. For us it was some fun entertainment, laughing and joking and having a good time. Taking your kids to Chuck E. Cheese, or letting your kids attend a birthday party at Chuck E. Cheese. Is it gambling? Throwing the rings onto milk bottles at the local carnival. Is that gambling? Does the arguments in the articles provide clarity in these situations?


The federal government defines gambling as,

"A person engages in gambling if he stakes or risks something of value upon the outcome of a contest of chance or a future contingent event not under his control or influence, upon an agreement or understanding that he or someone else will receive something of value in the event of a certain outcome."

I am not sure playing cards with nothing of value at stacks would be defined as gambling. I think the funny thing is that it is typically defined as a contest of "chance". Most gambling in places like Las Vegas are not a game of chance. They have an illusion of chance. But trust me, Billion dollar corporations are not built on chance. There is math and mechanisms at play that ensure that it is not chance. Scratching a lottery card or playing lottery could be viewed as chance. Playing something like poker with friends could be viewed as skill and not chance.

The Christian Liberty crowd out in full force. The next generation always takes your "liberty" to another level. Next they will be defending looking at pornography as long as you don't sin or defending the "liberty" of smoking marijuana for nonmedical purposes. No End In Sight. And we wonder why the gospel witness is so disrespected and why unbelievers believe Christianity is irrelevant.

Wally Morris
Huntington, IN

In my opinion, David Shumate does a much better job laying this out in a Biblical framework. What I struggle with is where do we draw the line. Is a penny pusher or a carnival attraction, gambling? I don't have a good sense around this. Like I said, the hardest "gambling" I have done is a penny pusher or the attraction at a Chuck E. Cheese.

I go to Vegas a lot for conferences and such. Never really saw the attraction of gambling, but I am invariably pulled into discussions with colleagues I am with on what they are going to play that night after the event we are scheduled to go to. I often join the conversation and tell them, I have found the perfect game in the casino. I have never lost, it is typically sitting idle, and most people just ignore it. That pulls people to attention. I then tell them the only drawback is that it only accepts cash and not a casino card or chips. That gets them intrigued. I then tell them the play is very simple. At this point, they are intently listening. I tell them you take a crisp dollar out of your wallet, insert it and within a few seconds, 4 quarters cling out of the return at the bottom. 100% payout. Then they all groan. I guess they didn't have the same fascination with the dollar bill changer as I did.

Re: Gambling in Las Vegas

Yes, I'm fully aware that the odds are never in my favor when I go into the casino. That's one of the reasons I didn't gamble when I went there for business conferences. The other reason is that I don't really know what I'm doing around the various games. I watched people playing craps for about an hour one time, and I walked away even more confused (and smelling like smoke).

I know that roulette is a complete waste of time and money. But, there is more skill in the game of blackjack and poker than most want to admit. As the old song goes, "You've got to know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em, know when to walk away, know when to run..."

Re: Wally's comments

Wally, why not engage and answer my questions? When does playing a game of cards with friends become sin in your estimation? Are scratch offs sin? If I have the disposable income, what's the difference between spending my money on horse races vs. taking horse-riding lessons? They both can be a form of entertainment and enjoyment.

And, I don't buy the "the next generation always takes your 'liberty' to another level" argument. Why not just teach the next generation what the Bible says instead of erecting subjective, extra-biblical prohibitions?

And we wonder why the gospel witness is so disrespected and why unbelievers believe Christianity is irrelevant.

The reasons are legion, but one is certainly that people who profess Christ are not being obedient to Scripture. Another is that there are millions of cultural Christians who claim to be Christians yet are not really regenerate. Another is that Christians have wedded themselves to a political candidate who is degenerate, corrupt, blasphemous, immoral, nasty, and now a convicted felon. Yet another is that Jesus himself tells us that the world will hate him and those who follow him.

One of the reasons is NOT that a few Christian friends get together and have a poker night. Or, that Christians enjoy an occasional wager or buy scratch offs.