Not What They Told You – Gambling

by Jeffrey W. Hamilton

Text: Proverbs 28:19-22


I.         Gambling is not a new problem

            A.        But it has become a big business. Every state in the United States has some form of legal gambling

                        1.         Though Nebraska is the least state addicted to gambling, it still exists (the next lowest are Alabama, Kentucky, and Utah). [1]

            B.        Why is government sponsoring gambling?

                        1.         Because of the revenue it brings in.

                                    a.         “State and local governments raised $27.7 billion in 2015 from major types of gambling.” [2]

                        2.         Prior to 1934 gambling existed, but was illegal in the United States.

                        3.         Those restraints have been removed and states have been allowing gambling to add in revenue for the state.

                                    a.         What has happened though, is that it makes about 2 to 2.5 percent of most state’s budget.

                                    b.         At first there is a surge, but that money dries up.

                                                (1)       “In the short-run, states indeed do raise additional revenues due to expansion of gambling activities and facilities. However, history shows that in the long-run the growth in state revenues from gambling activities slows or even reverses and declines. In short, the revenue returns deteriorate—and often quickly. This pattern of deterioration may be due to competition with other states for a limited market (saturation), competition between different forms of gambling (substitution), or other factors. Despite the deterioration, the dynamic often continues, as states find new forms of gambling to authorize, open new facilities, and impose higher taxes on gambling. The results are short-run yields and longer-run deterioration.” [2]

                                    c.         The result is the state thinks that adding yet another source of gambling will increase revenue, which it does for a short while and then dries up. They almost always add more gambling when there is an economic down-turn.

                                                (1)       “State-sanctioned legalized gambling has expanded gradually and continuously over the last four decades. All states except Hawaii and Utah collect revenue from one or more forms of gambling, such as lotteries, commercial casinos, racinos, pari-mutuel wagering, Native American casinos, and some less common types of gambling activities.” [2]

                        4.         Yet, gambling is also known to cost society heavily.

                                    a.         The “problems associated with gambling such as problem or pathological gambling, bankruptcy, crime, mental illness, suicide, regulatory costs, family costs, arrests, job loss, divorce, poor health, etc.” [2]

                                    b.         “If the benefits of gambling are not clear, and if the costs of gambling are too high, why do state legislators legalize gambling? As Earl Grinols pointed out twenty years ago, “The answer is partly that the costs do not appear instantaneously, partly that those who make money from gambling do not bear the costs they impose on others, and partly that gambling creates a classic regional Prisoner’s Dilemma problem: Everyone is best off if no one has gambling, but one region can sometimes gain at another’s expense if it deviates from the agreement to prohibit gambling everywhere.” [2]

                        5.         Notice short term gain that drops off, but long term costs that build.

II.        What is gambling?

            A.        An attempt to get “something for nothing without rendering service or exchange of goods.” [Webster]

            B.        “A simple definition of gambling would be, desiring the possession or possessions of another (the prize), the gambler creates a risk (that of losing his own possession) in an attempt through chance to gain the possession or possession of another with nothing given in exchange. Gambling takes many forms: card games, dice, numbers, betting, slot machines, sports pools, punch boards, bingo (for money or prizes), raffle tickets, matching, and even pitching pennies”

            C.        Gambling is a matter of kind, not degree. Whether the wager is 50 cents or 50 dollars, it is still gambling.

            D.        There are people who treat the stock market as a form of gambling, but the stock market actually is a way for people to invest in a business.

                        1.         You are loaning a business some of your money so they can produce goods or services. In exchange you own a portion of that business.

                        2.         As that business succeeds, the value of your portion of that business increases as well.

                        3.         That is why successful investors analyze the businesses they are investing in to make sure they are worth taking part ownership of the business.

III.       Why do people gamble?

            A.        A desire to gain wealth quickly.

                        1.         People get impatient with getting ahead through regular work.

            B.        A desire for excitement.

                        1.         The risks, suspense, hope, and shock of surprises entertains many people.

            C.        The instinct of combativeness.

            D.        Gambling is basically driven by covetousness, laziness, and recklessness.

            E.        Gambling is also addictive.

                        1.         “The North American Foundation for Gambling Addiction Help reports that approximately 2.6% of the U.S. population has some type of gambling issue. That adds up to nearly 10 million people in the United States who struggle with a gambling habit.” [3]

                        2.         Earl Grinois, economist at University of Illinois, “The casino industry is heavily dependent on the revenues of psychologically sick people.” More than half of a casino’s take comes from problem and pathological gamblers.

IV.      Argument for gambling

            A.        It is called “gaming,” but it is not much of a game

                        1.         Most games of chance return on 30 to 50 percent of every dollar invested

                        2.         Isn’t that “fun?” You get to play a game that is designed to take over half your money away from you.

                        3.         How to Win the Lottery by David Olsen
True story for anyone's gambling lesson: 

There is a man at the Texas City church of Christ named Marlin Ridenour. He works for the City of Galveston and oversees the water department. 

The year the Texas State Lottery commenced in 1991, one of the employees wrote on a whiteboard a little table tracking lottery winnings of employees. Any employee could put their name on the board and track to see who won the most money. Six people signed up and tracked how many tickets they bought. When they won, they added money. When they lost, they subtracted the costs of the ticket. 

Marlin put his name up there too. He bought 0 tickets made $0 dollars and lost $0. After about 10 months of tracking ... HE WON!!! With $0. 

Finally a guy who was in the negative by about $400 erased the whole board in disgust. 

You would think it would have taught everyone a lesson, but it didn't. They still play and he still doesn't. He probably has a net worth more than the other five employees combined. 

Lottery = Tax for foolish people

                        4.         Trying to make a quick buck leads to poverty - Proverbs 28:20

            B.        It is a chance to better your situation

                        1.         The primary source of gambling income comes from poor and moderate income families [2]

                        2.         God expects us to be good stewards of the things he has given us - I Corinthians 4:2

                        3.         Gambling is an guaranteed way to lose money.

            C.        One young man told me: “I gamble on major league baseball and nothing else. I consistently win, having a 58% winning rate, going on two years straight.”

                        1.         He claims to consistently win but then says he has a 58% winning rate.

                                    a.         This can mean he win 58 out of 100 plays, which means he wins more often than he loses, but it still means he loses 42 out of 100 plays.

                                    b.         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. 

                        2.         There is a deceptiveness to sin

                                    a.         Each time you gamble, the odds of winning remain the same

                                    b.         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?

                                                (1)       Gamblers have a hard time with this question, because they are distracted by the past.

                                                (2)       The fact is that it will be heads 50% of the time.

                                                (3)       A coin doesn't remember the past.

                                    c.         While who wins a baseball game is not a mechanical process, and he is using his knowledge of baseball to improve the odds of deciding who will win, the fact remains that no one really knows.

                                                (1)        If we always knew who would win the next game, why bother playing it?

                                                (2)       The reason the game is played is because we know that the best team doesn't always win - Ecclesiastes 9:11

                                                (3)       Good guesses in the past doesn’t mean you will be just as successful in the future.

                                                (4)       Odds makers set the odds so that the organization running the pool wins about 30 to 50 cents on the dollar in the long run

                                                (5)       Past success doesn’t change the current odds

            D.        Good can come of it

                        1.         This is why gambling is brought in saying, “It will fund our schools,” or some charitable organization is supposed to get a portion of the proceeds

                        2.         Saul justified his disobedience by claiming there would be a sacrifice - I Samuel 15:19-22

                        3.         Good doesn’t come from wrong - Romans 3:8

                                    a.         Thus, a claim of a good result doesn’t prove it was right in the first place.

                                    b.         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?

                                    c.         Matthew 7:17-18 - A bad tree cannot produce good fruit


                        4.         I have people claim, “If I win, I’ll give 10% to the Lord!”

                                    a.         God doesn’t want the money of sinners - Deuteronomy 23:18

            E.        It’s just a small amount of money

                        1.         Sin doesn’t change being based on quantity. Can you imagine someone saying “It was only a little murder”? - Romans 6:1-2

                        2.         Who determines what is a small amount?

                                    a.         It becomes an individual judgment based on personal feelings

                                    b.         But people don’t make good judgments in regards to themselves - Jeremiah 10:23

                                    c.         Anarchy reigns when people do what they think is right - Judges 21:25

V.        Why is gambling wrong?

            A.        God has commanded man to work for his living - Genesis 3:19

                        1.         Paul told the Ephesians to labor with our hands - Ephesians 4:28; I Thessalonians 4:11

                        2.         If we don’t work, we shouldn’t eat - II Thessalonians 3:10-13

                        3.         We can also exchange or barter - Acts 5:3-4

                        4.         Invest - Matthew 25:14-30

                        5.         Gamblers are seeking to win without earning through shear chance.

            B.        Gambling is an act of selfishness.

                        1.         Giving makes you feel good about releasing your possessions to another - Acts 20:35

                        2.         A gambler isn't happy about losing his money.

            C.        Gambling violates the golden rule

                        1.         Matthew 7:12 - Do unto others as you would have them do to you.

                        2.         A gambler seeks for others to lose, while he wins. Just because others are willing partners does not make it right.

            D.        Gambling is greed

                        1.         A greedy man hastens after wealth - Proverbs 28:22

                        2.         The amount we have doesn’t define life - Luke 12:15


  1. Adam McCann, “2018's Most Gambling-Addicted States,” Wallet Hub, 24 Apr 2018.
  2. Lucy Dadayan, “State Revenues From Gambling: Short-Term Relief, Long-Term Disappointment”, The Nelson A. Rockefeller Institute of Government, Apr 2016.
  3. Gambling Addiction Statistics” citing North American Foundation for Gambling Addiction. Statistics of Gambling Addiction. 2017
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