Is There Anything Wrong with Legal Gambling?


Texas, as you may know, is in the process of soon asking the voters to approve casino gambling. This pretty well completes Texas as a gambling state, since Texas already has horse racing, dog racing, and three levels of lottery.

Since many states are seeking to add gambling, while other states are planning how to increase already established gambling; and with the lust people have for “instant riches,” it seems to me that the American people are planning their own destruction by attempting to place God aside and to fulfill a dream or wish of greed and lust, both abominable to God. Let’s remain alert against falling into such traps of destruction.

Is there anything wrong with legal gambling? I believe there is.


*Data in this article has been drawn from the U.S. News and World Report, March 14, 1994 and from the 1994 Britannica Book of the Year, subtopic “Gambling” also from the Encyclopedia Britannica, 15th ed., vol 7, subtopic “Gambling” and Vol 29, subtopic “United States of America”

Is gambling really such a terrible thing? To gamblers, it is pleasure; and to sponsors (government, corporate or individual) it is high profit, right? The industry has grown faster than the general economy between 1984 and 1994 and compared to a few decades ago, there has been an extreme lack of moral condemnation of it. In recent years, participation in multiple forms of gambling has soared in the United States. However, its popularity does not mean that it isn’t harmful to society and individuals.

Gambling has often been defined as taking a chance. This is inadequate and misleading, for sitting in our own kitchen carries an element of risk and most would not qualify breakfasting as “gambling.” Neither would it be right to. God does not condemn the taking of normal risk. In the Parable of the Talent, the one condemned was the one too afraid to invest the money entrusted to him.

Gambling is the wagering of money or something of material value in an artificial and uncertain risk, in the hope of disproportional monetary or material gain, at someone else’s expense. The outcome is often determined by chance alone, but can vary in predictability. It is critically important to recognize the differences between healthy risks and gambling.

For illustration; there is often high financial risk involved in purchasing stocks; however it is important to see how this differs from gambling. The ‘return’ is not determined by a short term event such as the spin of a wheel. Unlike in a casino, there are, in general, positive expected returns. The risk can be mitigated by personal knowledge and a number of other factors that would not affect the roll of dice. Any losses on one single investment are not necessarily permanent. The investment has some economic utility and if one person is increased from their investment, it means others have benefited, company, shareholders and customers alike. In other words, any monetary gains are not necessarily at the expense of others, as it is in gambling. The list could go on and on.


Thomas Jefferson said that gambling was like a voluntary tax. He couldn’t have known of the modern casino.

Casinos exploit their willing victims, utilizing every imaginable scheme to get the gambler to happily part with all their money. Almost every element in a casino—the scents, colors, furnishings, lighting and layout—are intentionally designed to keep gamblers there longer; “psychologically, casinos don’t want gamblers to realize how much they are losing,” says one dealer.

Casino machines are designed to give advantage to the casino house operators. “For an industry governed by odds, casinos leave little to chance,” Says the report. “To line their pockets just a wee bit more, they have added games with stunning house odds… Since all casino games give the house a mathematical edge, the longer a player gambles, the greater the house’s chance of winning.” A mathematician once figured that a gambler who wagered one dollar every bet for two months straight would have one chance in 2 trillion to win $1000 dollars before he lost $1000 dollars.

Casinos amass personal information on bettors to “reward” steady players with “comps”—complementary meals, show tickets, hotel stays—anything to get them to come more frequently and stay longer—and so leave more of their money behind. Computers also track each bettor’s “average worth” (how much he or she should lose based on his time spent gambling and the house’s fixed percentages).

Casinos are not magnanimously giving gamblers the opportunity to “get something for nothing” A Las Vegas casino operator is frank about what casinos actually do, saying: “You can’t disguise this industry …It is what it is. … When we put 50 machines in, I always consider them 50 more mousetraps. You have to have a mousetrap to catch a mouse… It’s our duty to extract as much money from the customer as we can. And send them home with a smile on their face.”

What is gambling? It’s volunteering for what would otherwise be exploitation and robbery.

What’s Wrong With Legalized Gambling?

Governments may make gambling legal, but they cannot make it right, or moral, or profitable for the gambler.

Gambling is anti-Christian, anti-faith, anti-God. In an idolatrous fashion, it places the love of material things ahead of the love of God, family, and other rightful interests. Gambling promotes an overanxious longing for money. It shows a lack of faith in God’s ability to provide for all your material needs, and the “get rich quick” mentality flies in the face of the honest and prudent work ethic taught in Scripture. In general, it is hardly in one’s best interest.

The Bible teaches that all we have, and all we are, belongs to God. “In him we live and move and have our being.” Whatever we possess, whether money, property, friends, ability—all is held by us in trust. We show ourselves irresponsible when we put any of these resources at needless risk. Betting money in gambling is to act irresponsible with property that does not belong to us. Paul says that “those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare… which drown men in destruction and perdition” (1 Tim. 6:9). Gambling is just such a temptation and a snare, ruining those who develop an uncontrolled desire for it.

What might seem a harmless evening’s entertainment, can turn into a lust for money that usurps the place of God, family and self. It can corrupt and destroy so much more than a person’s bank account. Covetousness, greed, selfishness and ultimately self-destruction are not unknown consequences of gambling. Debt and lust can lead to attachments to this world which we, as Christians, are commanded not to make, for these things are of a world that is passing away.

There is no verse in Scripture that says clearly, “You shall not gamble.” But many commands bear upon it, either directly or indirectly.

Jesus taught that the two most important commandments in the law are, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind and with all your strength” and “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:30-31). The practice of gambling is directly opposed to both of these statements. Gambling is putting the love of money ahead of the love of God, and the love of one’s self ahead of one’s neighbor.

Is there anything wrong with legal gambling? Yes; and as Christians we should have nothing to do with it.