The Christian and Gambling

By Jeffery Kingry

Approximately fifty million people in America gamble. Gamblers in America bet an estimated $50 billion annually -more than is spent on education, religion, or medical care. The annual profit of professional gambling interests is estimated to be greater than the combined profit of the one hundred largest corporations in the United States (Lycurgus M. Starkey, Mr. Money, Mania, and Morals, Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1964, p. 15, 29).

The jingle of the Maryland State Lottery is “You Have To Play To Win!” Coupled with the smiling faces of happy winners, the advertisements sell an average of $90 million worth of lottery tickets annually. But, behind the bright posters and television ads, carefully hidden from public view, is the corruption which gambling brings to individuals and to society. Gambling’s danger, like fornication, is compounded by the fact that it is not only harmful, but also alluring. The two, with alcohol, are often intertwined as “the good life” promoted wherever we turn.

Crime and Gambling

Nevada, which has had legalized gambling since its origin as a state, has had the highest crime rate of any state in the Union. Its per-capita crime rate is double the national rate, and its number of suicides triples the national average. Reno, Nevada, a gambling mecca for millions, has the highest crime rate of any city its size in the nation, according to FBI statistics. The report on gambling and organized crime prepared by the Senate Committee on Government Operations states that, “the chief source of revenue for organized crime is illegal gambling.” The report further states “The huge profits from illegal gambling are the primary source of funds to finance the other activities of organized crime: drugs, prostitution, fencing, and loan sharking” (Gambling And Organized Crime, Senate Report, March 28, 1962, p. 2).

Further, an article by Milton R. Wessel in The Nation (October 22, 1960 declares, “Fully half of the syndicate’s income from gambling is earmarked for protection money paid to police and politicians. Approximately 4.5 billion dollars annually goes from professional gambling interests to public officials as bribes.” The Senate Crime Investigation Committee commented, “In states where gambling is legal, the alliance of gamblers, gangsters, and government will yield only to the spotlight of publicity and the pressure of public opinion. But where gambling receives a cloak of respectability through legalization there is no weapon which can be used to keep the gamblers and their money out of politics” (Estes Kefauver, Crime In America, Garden City: Doubleday and Co., 1951, p. 126).

In the state of Maryland, a legalized lottery has been in existence since 1973. This state has had a legal numbers game since 1976. Before this, the state had legal slot machines and pin-ball machines. The corruption became so great, that these were made illegal by law, but soon replaced by the “numbers” game. Every year, organized gambling / crime politicians introduce bills to return slot machines and money paying pin-balls to the State. Last year these interests were defeated by only a small margin. Legalized lotteries are now flourishing in 15 other states.

Between 1973 and 1977, the state of Maryland took in $428.5 million dollars from gambling citizens. Of that figure, $198.4 million was paid out in prizes, $169.9 million went to the state as income, and $160.2 million went for “expenses.” Legalized parimutuel betting at racetracks also swells the state’s and politician’s pockets. The governor of Maryland and three of his associates, former legislators, were convicted of racketeering, bribery, and fixing of race dates to provide themselves with more days to make money. The governor and his friends were found to have purchased a majority of the stock in two racetracks, providing an interesting “conflict of interest.” Special Federal prosecutors have already convicted former county executives, state’s attorneys, and state legislators on similar charges.

Gambling and the Economy

Most successful efforts to eliminate gambling from communities have been led by business and labor leaders. One labor spokesman said, “Our labor organization opposes commercialized gambling because of its drag upon the community and economy, diverting purchasing power from job-producing industries” (R.P. Edgar, The Push For Legal Gambling, Pulpit Digest, May, 1965, p. 15). Along with an increase in gambling goes an increase in unpaid bills, embezzlement bankruptcy, and absenteeism from jobs. Gambling centers have great difficulty in attracting .industry. After gambling was legalized in Great Britain, bad debts increased 20%. Gambling produces nothing, adds nothing to the economy or society, or nation.

Gambling and Character

Gambling corrupts the character of man in several ways. The “something-for-nothing” crave which gambling stimulates undermines character. Gambling appeals to the weakness of the soul that the Christian hopes to control and put to death in his life: covetousness, greed, selfishness, recklessness, callousness, etc. Gambling excesses promote theft, irresponsibility, neglect of family and leads to such personal and social evils as divorce and delinquency. Often, the gambler hurts innocent people like his own family.

Seen in its true light gambling is selfish, destructive, harmful and irresponsible. While the Bible contains no “thou shaft not” in regard to gambling, it does condemn the spirit and consequences of gambling. Solomon said, “They lad in wait for their own blood; they lurk privily for their own lives. So are the ways of every one who is greedy of gain; which taketh away the life of the owners thereof” (Prov. 1:18, 19). While gambling does not necessarily destroy ones body, “greed for gain” certainly corrodes and destroys the soul. It dehumanizes the one who is caught in its grip. Covetousness is self-slaughter.

“He that is greedy of gain troubleth his own house” (Prov. 15:27). One is reminded of Achan, who, in his greed for that which he had not labored for, appropriated some of the spoil of the banned city, Jericho. He brought down destruction upon his whole house. In another sense, the man who, deprives his family of comfort and support in order to pursue his chronic losses, hurts, not only himself, but all who depend on him.

Jeremiah had a word which applies to modern lottery winners. “As the partridge sitteth on eggs, and hatcheth them not; so is he that getteth riches, and not by right, shall lose them in the midst of days, and at his end shall be a fool” (Jer. 17:11). Several recently written newspaper articles on those newly rich lottery winners demonstrate vividly that suddenly winning a million dollars is not the dream that it is cracked up to be. Their gain, gotten at the expense of thousands of others brought no happiness to the winners. Hounded from their homes, living in isolation and loneliness, alienated from friends and family, these “lucky” winners quickly find that the joy and happiness promised in the lottery ads is a cruel lie.


Because the desire to get something for nothing and an opportunity to gamble go hand in hand, an :attack on one, requires an attack upon the other. It is a matter of record that as gambling becomes more and more accessible more people gamble. Thus legalization is not an answer to the gambling problem. The Christian should oppose legalization of gambling as a citizen and as a voter.

Among the arguments advanced to justify gambling is one that claims that all of life is a gamble or a risk. But, risk-taking in the normal routine of life is different than the risk of gambling. Gambling makes an artificial risk which rewards some at the expense of others. Risks taken in life are a creative process, like the contractor who risks his capital to build a home that he then sells to someone who needs a place to live. All profit in the transaction, and get what they want. More than chance is involved in developing a profit.

Another argument offered is that one individual buying an occasional lottery ticket, or dropping a quarter into a slot machine, or spending “recreation” money on the horses is a legitimate way to have fun. Gambling may be fun (most temptations are), but the cost to the individual, to his family, the economy, and society is too high to justify it. There is no scriptural or moral way to justify gambling. The Christian must therefore “eschew evil.”

Truth Magazine XXII: 23, pp. 377-378
June 8, 1978