Do you gamble?

By Stew

I grew up in a pretty conservative Christian environment where all gambling was off-limits, no if’s, and’s or but’s. Any sort of gambling was on “the list” of activities in which no believer would ever participate. In fact, I remember listening to my pastor explain that even playing a game with a traditional card deck was off limits for any good Christian. As a result, I grew up playing a lot of different card games that did not use the traditional 52 card deck. Games like Rook, Phase 10, Uno, Old Maid were okay, but not poker games like Texas Hold’em, BlackJack, Omaha, etc. A casino was a business to be boycotted and protested.

As I have grown older, my position on gambling has moderated a bit, at least from a Christian perspective. I do not think there is anything innately wrong with a deck of cards and Scripture does not expressly forbid gambling for that matter. However, when it comes to determining an approach to gambling for the believer, here are a few thoughts that should guide your thinking.

Gambling almost never makes anyone rich.

I have often heard the saying that when it comes to government lotteries like the state lottery or intra-state lotteries like Powerball, “your odds of winning are about the same whether you buy a ticket or not”. For every professional poker player that we might see on ESPN playing in the World Series of Poker and living a lavish lifestyle, there are a thousand others whose lives are spent in bankruptcy and heartbreak because of their inability to walk away from bet. Gambling is not a good way to support your family and secure your own future.

Gambling gives the illusion of easy money.

“A fool and his money are soon parted” goes an old saying . . . So-called professional gamblers do not achieve gambling success overnight. Instead, it takes years of practice and the investment of large sums of money. The person who gambles in an attempt to get rich quick becomes the “fish” or the person who looses money that he needs. You might even call this person a “fool”.

Gambling is entertainment

Nothing more. Some people spend money on fishing, others on golf, still others spend money on amusement parks and luxury cruises. Gambling could be considered as a part of that list – simply a way to unwind. However, if your hobby threatens your relationships with family and friends, if you struggle to fulfill your financial obligations or if that pastime becomes an obsession, you must purge it from your life. Obviously, gambling can and does ruin lives, but so can almost any other form of entertainment that is allowed to grow out of control. There might be a place for a little social gambling in your life, a little penny ante poker probably never hurt anyone, but just like alcohol, you need to be aware of the risks. Never gamble more than you can afford to lose and still be content that  you had a good time.

Gambling can be a social activity

There are many groups of friends or even family members who like to play a little poker or even spend a weekend in Las Vegas. Gambling can be a way to develop relationships. My grandfather played poker with the same group of friends on Friday nights for almost forty years. They played for spare change and took a quarter out of every pot that they saved in order to take their wives out to dinner every couple of months. To my knowledge, there were never any fights or hurt relationships and none of the men went in the poorhouse from this little game. Instead, they forged lifelong friendships and even remembered to include their spouses. Gambling stories do not always have such a positive ending, but it can be done.

Gather Little by Little

Patience and disciplined living will do more for your bankroll than throwing away a few dollars a week on lottery tickets. Even the people who buy a $1 lottery ticket every week, would probably be better off putting that dollar in the bank. Are you in debt? Do your children or wife have financial needs? The theme of this blog is “He who gathers money little by little, makes it grow”.  It might be permissible for a Christian to gamble a little here and there for fun and relaxation. On the other hand, there might be a better way for you to unwind without throwing away your money.

Article by Stew

Photo by conorwithonen


7 Responses (including trackbacks) to “Do you gamble?”

  1. Kevin Says:

    The only people you hear about are the winners. It’s the people going broke because they don’t win are the silent majority.
    I usually only play a game of poker every now and then with my friends, and maybe pick up a lottery ticket every now and then. I’m not too fond of losing so I choose not to try and lose by gambling a lot.

  2. dramon Says:

    Over the long haul, the casino always wins. I agree that it is a form of entertainment and if you can afford it and treat it like that it is fine.

    The only thing I do at casino’s is go to the buffet, which can be a good value as it is supported by gamblers.

  3. Bern Says:

    The question is, are people gambling away their retirement with qualified retirement plans?

    1. You can pick your investments like you can pick your games.
    2. You can pick games, like your investments, that have a better chance at winning.
    3. You have as much control over these investments and how they perform as you do on a roulette table.
    3. The casino is designed for the house to win. The government can win big on your 401k when retirement is here: taxes.

    Just some thoughts…

  4. dramon Says:

    Bern,

    So you are saying you get better returns over the long haul gambling versus investing?

    Gambling earnings are taxes as well and are reported to IRS if over a certain amount. ( you can deduct gambling losses from this)

  5. Bern Says:

    On the contrary…I was just saying that some people snicker at gambling but turn around and don’t realize they may be gambling with their retirement accounts.

    You are correct, you can’t deduct gambling losses. On that same token, you can’t deduct losses in a 401k either.

  6. FinancialBondage.org Says:

    I use to buy lotto tickets. Not anymore.

  7. Ned Sitz Says:

    This is an excellent blog here! I just bookmarked it.

    I have got a poker fan page over on Facebook. If you wanted to see: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Poker-Players-Only/136818223026737

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