This article was written by a good friend and faithful gospel preacher (J. Clyde Strickland) several years ago. It is as apropos today as it was when first written.
That GAMBLING is very widespread must be admitted by all. Will Rogers is reported to have said, “There is a wide streak in nearly every American man and woman, a fat streak, fat as a prize hog’s bacon’ (WIN OR LOSE, by Stephen Longstreet, Introduction, p. IX). But why do people gamble? And is there anything wrong with gambling? Is it a sin to gamble? These are questions, along with others; I shall endeavor to answer in this article.
The Practice of gambling in its many forms dates back to ancient times. Artifacts of gambling paraphernalia have been discovered in ancient China, India, and in Egypt. For example, ivory dice which date back to 1500 years before Christ were found in the city of Thebes, an ancient city of Boeotia, a region located in central Greece, and gambling is mentioned in still older tablets found in the pyramid of Cheops in Egypt (AMERICANA ENCYCLOPEDIA, vol. 12. p. 264, 1988 ed). Gambling is found in countries and societies from the most civilized to the most primitive; and it is engaged in by the rich and best educated, the middle class, and by the very poor. America, our beloved country, has been called “The gamblingest nation that ever existed,” a dubious honor which no right-thinking people would ever covet.
Gambling is defined as: “vt. 1. To play a game of chance for money or other stakes on an uncertain outcome (as of horse race or an athletic game); 2. To stake something of value on an uncertain event or contingency. Vt. 1. To risk or lose by gambling; wager, bet (“They’ve all been gambled and lost by her husband this morning”); 2. To expose (something of value) to risk or hazard in hope of advantage or gain” (WEBSTER’S DICTIONARY). Other sources give approximately the same definition. For example, the ENCYCLOPEDIA AMERICANA gives the following: “Gambling generally is defined as the voluntary risking of a sum of money called the stake, wager, or bet, on the outcome of a game or other event” (1988 ed., vol. 12, p. 264). Then too, gambling involves each participant in an effort to take from the other that which he has, or has wagered, without his giving anything in return–an effort to obtain something for nothing.
Chance, Risk, Gambling
Many have argued than many of the things we do, and maybe most things, involve gambling. It is contended that the farmer gambles against the elements, rain, hail, drought, insects, etc., every time he plants seed in his effort to make a crop; that we gamble against other drivers whenever we drive our cars on the highway, and that when we go to bed at night, there is a chance, a risk, and therefore, we gamble that we shall see tomorrow’s sun. But look again at the definition given above for gambling. Gambling is not just a chance; gambling is a wager, a stake, or a bet on a chance! It is an effort to get something of value (money, property, or service) without giving the equivalent in return.
The farmer plants and cultivates his crops; he labors for that which he receives. True, his wages received for his labors sometimes may be small, but he didn’t gamble. Also, a risk is taken when we drive our cars out on the highways, a necessary risk, but in the light of the definition above, it is not gambling. And there is a chance that something could happen (heart attack, etc.) which could prevent our seeing another day. These are but chances we have to take, necessary risk, but do not involve gambling. If we should make a bet or wager against these risks, then we would be gambling. Further, in these risks one does not take to himself; money or property (possessions) which belong to the other. Thus, gambling is not involved.
Why People Gamble
It may seem strange for one who has never gambled to undertake to tell why people gamble, yet, gamblers have given their reasons as to why they gambled. I can report their reasons for gambling.
- Some gamble in the hope of obtaining money without having to work for it–the love of gain without labor! And what started out on this basis for many resulted in their losing great amounts of money and their property.
- These losses then gave reason for their continued gambling: Efforts to recoup their losses, thinking: “I just had a streak of bad luck, but I can win it all back!” Many never do.
- Some gamble for the thrill it gives them. The thrill of pulling the lever and hitting the jackpot; of making the bet and winning the hand at cards; guessing the number on which your put will land on the roulette wheel, or at some other game. “The thrill of the game brings many back to the table!”
- Addiction: Just as experimenting with drugs leads to addition, so the thrill of gambling leads to addiction. One becomes a “compulsive gambler.” And regardless of the number of losses and debts incurred, he returns to the table again and again. In order to learn gambling is addictive, one need only read the testimony of doctors who have treated gamblers for their addiction to gambling. Also, there is an organization called GAMBLERS ANONYMOUS which was established just to treat those addicted to gambling in much the same way that ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS endeavors to treat the alcoholic.
In light of all this, would one still argue there is nothing wrong with gambling?
The gambler is a perpetual optimist. He is just certain that with the next roll of the dice, the next pull of the lever, the next spin of the wheel, or the next hand of cards will win for him the jackpot. The sad thing is, it rarely ever happens that way. It is reported that for the professional gambler, when his year’s losses are totaled he ends up in the minus column with a deficit of from ten to twenty thousand dollars, and if he is not otherwise wealthy, banks will not lend him money. The gambler is a bad risk.
(To be continued)