Question:

I basically gamble for money. I gamble on major league baseball and nothing else. I consistently win, having a 58% winning rate, going on two years straight. I am not trying to brag; I just want to tell you where I am and how I feel about this. This is how I am paying for college and other things. The one thing that concerns me is whether this is wrong according to the Bible. I know I shouldn't judge, but when you gamble you are basically taking money from the scummiest of people. Is it really that wrong to win money from a casino, a place that ruins people's lives every day and causes a lot of people to go bankrupt? Vegas is known as the city of suckers, and the city of fools, so is it really wrong to win money from these casinos when those casinos shatter families and cause real problems to people?

Answer:

You might think I'm being unfair, but what I would like to do is separate how you are justifying your gambling from the moral question of whether gambling is right or wrong. Too often people decide what they want as the "right" answer and then select arguments that make it appear that their already made decision was fine.

I assume that you have some doubts regarding the morality of gambling, otherwise you won't be asking a preacher about it. So first, we need to address whether gambling, in general, is morally right or wrong. For that I would like you to look at the sermon outline titled, appropriately enough, "Gambling." The article "Is Gambling Sinful?" has some overlapping arguments but is also useful to read. You probably would like to say that some of those arguments don't apply to your situation. But I would like you to step back from your personal involvement and ask yourself if gambling, in light of what God teaches, is morally right or not.

I hope you have concluded that in general gambling can be sinful and I assume at this point the question is whether what you are doing negates that sinfulness.

Past Winnings

Your first point illustrates the deceptiveness of sin. You state that you consistently win and then follow it with the statement that you have a 58% winning rate. This can mean you win 58 out of 100 plays, which means you win more often than you lose but it still means you lose 42 out of 100 plays. If that is what you meant, that is not a consistent win rate, but gamblers are hooked on only seeing the wins. As a group, they tend to ignore their losses. A second way of looking at your win rate is that you are saying that you are getting back 58 cents for every dollar you spent. I doubt you would be proud of that ratio. So I must conclude that you mean that you are getting back $1.58 for every dollar you spend.

Assuming your record keeping is accurate, it sounds too good to be true. And that is what I am referring to as the deceptiveness of sin. You see, each time you play, the odds of winning remain the same. If I flip a coin and it comes up heads five times in a row, what are the odds of it being heads on the next flip? Gamblers have a hard time with this question because they are distracted by the past. The fact remains that it will be heads remains at 50%. A coin doesn't remember the past.

While who wins a baseball game is not a mechanical process, and you can use your knowledge of the game to improve the odds of deciding who will win, the fact remains that no one really knows. If we always knew who would win the next game, why bother playing it? The reason is that we know that the best team doesn't always win. "I returned and saw under the sun that - the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, nor bread to the wise, nor riches to men of understanding, nor favor to men of skill; but time and chance happen to them all" (Ecclesiastes 9:11). Even with a good record of picking winning teams, it doesn't mean you will always be right. Right now what you are doing is betting that you can outguess the oddsmaker as to who wins the next game. But those oddsmakers are setting the winnings (the odds) so that the casino makes about 30 to 50 cents for every dollar played in the long run.

What I conclude is that it is still a poor investment of money. The odds are still in the casino's favor each time you play. Your past success doesn't change the current odds.

A Good Cause

Your second point is that you are using the money to pay for college (and other things). I assume the reason you emphasize the college is that that looks to be a good thing. Even if the source of funds is suspect, at least some good is coming from it.

Sadly, this too is a deception. As Paul argued, "And why not say, "Let us do evil that good may come"? --as we are slanderously reported and as some affirm that we say. Their condemnation is just" (Romans 3:8). The truth is that evil doesn't produce good. If such were true, then why not pat the thief on the back when he robs people so long as he spends most of the money on charities or his own education? "Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit" (Matthew 7:17-18).

The robber harms others because he is taking what belongs to another. What he spends the money he steals doesn't change the fact that he took money from someone else. The gambler takes money that others have voluntarily given, but he must turn a blind eye to the fact that a great many of those "giving" are doing it out greed. They are hoping they will get to take your money from you. Thus gambling exists by promoting an industry based on greed of all its players. Encouraging sinfulness in others is also sinful. After giving a long list of sins in the Gentile society, which included covetousness (or greed), Paul states, "who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them" (Romans 1:32).

It is Harming the Evil

You also argue that if anyone is suffering it is the casinos who are making money off of foolish people. If we agree that gambling is wrong, then you are arguing that good comes from fighting evil with evil. But Christians are told not to battle evil in this way. "Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good" (Romans 12:21). If taking money from foolish people is wrong, then taking money from those who take money from others is equally wrong.

Conclusion

If something is wrong, then the situation in which wrong occurs doesn't make it better or right. Gambling is harmful and sinful. Rather than gambling, get yourself a job and work your way through college. Sure, you won't have as much free time. Sure, it will be harder. But in the end, you will find it easier to get a good job because along with your education you will be able to point to your work record as evidence of your ability to be a good employee. You will also feel better about yourself because you know you earned the money you have.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email