|Taken from www.benzinga.com|
What is “Gambling”? For the discussion purpose, I take gambling’s definition as “to bet money on the outcome of a game, contest, or other event.” Basically, gambling has an idea of taking a risk in the hope of gaining an advantage or a benefit.
Nowadays, there are various gambling forms such as 4D, TOTO, and Social Gambling which considered as “softer” form of gambling or leisure activities. Meanwhile, gambling such as horse betting, table games in cruises / casinos in other countries, sports betting, jackpot machines and online gambling are falls in the category of the harder form.
We may wonder how gambling has widely reached into Asian communities today. In fact, we can easily recognize this hidden epidemic base on the finding of Global Betting and Gaming Consultants (GBGC): Asia Becomes World’s Biggest Gambling Region! Surprisingly, this gambling tsunami also pointing to the fact that Asians gambler is a huge market even in the America. Studies showed that the majority of people whether in Asia or America are actually aware of gambling is potentially harmful, addictive and problematic for their community. Despite of these cold facts, ironically, the majority of people especially Asian Chinese still perceive that gambling once in a while and not excessively are acceptable. They considered gambling to be a form of recreation or entertainment and there is nothing wrong with gambling. This is where the controversy and ambiguity arises: could gambling be merely as entertainment without ethical precept?
How Christianity Views Gambling?
Gamblers could justify their gambling as leisure activities as long as they are not in big lost or suffer from Problem Gambling. However, Christianity’s view on this ‘grey area’ is not the consequences that determine the rightness or wrongness of an act but certain features in the act itself or in the rule of which the act. The end never justifies the means.
Gambling industry is seen as one of the most notorious examples of selfishness and non-ethical in the business world. Why? It is because they (the gambling corporations) are continually driven by the need to make a profit, which over-rides all other considerations. If gamblers are harmed and severely suffered in the course of doing it, that is not an issue for them unless it seriously affects the corporations’ best and only interest – making money. They assumes that it is gamblers’ own responsibility for any bad consequences yet they depict gambling is the answer and hope of life’s satisfaction. Gambling beautifies its non-ethical selfishness with entertainment elements which it eventually entraps gamblers into the No-Win predicament. Definitely, it is almost impossible to see a big sign board: For your own and family’s sake, don’t gambling!
Definitely, business should aims for profit. However, Christianity’s antithesis is gambling industry has the wrong desire in mind to get other’s possession. Although gambling issues is not specifically mentioned in the Bible, yet the root issue of gambling is always begins with coveting, a strong desire. One of the commandments in the Bible states, “You shall not covet (Hebrew word is khamad) your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, nor his male servant, nor his female servant, nor his ox, nor his donkey, nor anything that belongs to your neighbor (Ex. 20:17).” Those possessions in ancient time is similar to the money and properties that we are having today.
Interestingly, “the verb חָמַד (khamad) focuses not on an external act but on an internal mental activity behind the act, the motivation for it. In the Bible, the word can be used in a very good sense (Ps. 19:10; 68:16), but it has a bad connotation in contexts where the object desired is off limits. This command is aimed at curtailing the greedy desire for something belonging to a neighbor, a desire that leads to the taking of it or the attempt to take it.”
With this understanding of covet, then, an enlightened perspective of gambling formed: The House (gambling corporation) has greedy desire for gamblers’ possessions while gamblers also have the same strong desire for others’ possessions. Thus, under God’s commandment, both are guilty in this case.
Some might argue that gambling is a personal choice and there is an option of responsible gambling, however, inevitably, gambling seems eventually becomes strong bondage and addiction on those gamblers. Pathological gamblers always admit that gambling is a beautiful jail where they hardly exercise their free-will to escape but under its slavery. Thus, how can a person be sure to what extent of gambling is ‘safe’ for him? Addictive gamblers would testify that gambling is a perfect venue to promote greedy desire where their initial ‘right motive’ (of having leisure) has been gradually and subtly conformed to ‘selfish desire’ that ignores dignity and nobility of self, family, community and works. If gambling has an option of responsible gambling, why gamblers’ testimonies disproved it?
From the view of Christianity, regardless of any legal technicality, the desire and behavior of gambling, is fundamentally against God who is holy and just. For it is written in the Bible, “You shall be holy, because I am holy (I Peter 1:16).” Follow this logic and command, Christianity is fully aware that heart’s condition of man is covetous and hardly stands against the strong desire of greed and possession. In order to obey God and stay away from harmful desire, Christians choose to refrain from this activity.
Any Exceptional Case?
How about social gambling or “softer” form of gambling that just focus on entertainment and do not desire for the wealthy? Well, it seems to be a situation that justifies individual liberty with reasonable qualifications to gambling such as if one is truly manifest self-control, is has sufficient financial income and is not influencing any weaker-determined people.
This is the scenario presented by Timothy Morgan for your reconsideration the affects of gambling to your next generation:
“Teens are paying for our ill-fated social experiment with legal gambling. As more teens are being drawn into the culture of chance, gambling is influencing American society in deep and unexpected ways…. The pervasive worship of Lady Luck – on riverboat casinos, televised live lottery drawings, and at tempting theme-park casinos – alters our perspective on life. The idea that ‘hard work pays off’ is now believed by only one of three people surveyed. In the 1960’s, nearly 60 percent believed in the work ethic. We can count on this attitudinal sea change to affect our youth (and our nation’s future)… Unless we address the spiritual issues underlying gambling, America’s next generation may perish, having no vision, but only a daydream.”
Would you want this scenario happen in our community? In fact, gamblers are aware that their actions are conveying life message to the people around although “softer” form of gambling seem rightful. Interestingly, survey in Singapore showed that most people think it is better not to tell one’s family and friends that one gambles. When they know we have gone to a casino, watching us buy lotteries or social gambling, then, our behavior had given approval. Indirectly, we may serve to set them on an undesirable path where we are not sure whether they will be able to guide their hearts from greedy desire that set on wrong goals.
Christianity ethical conduct for this issue is well guided by: “Everything is lawful,” but not everything is beneficial. “Everything is lawful,” but not everything builds others up. Do not seek your own good, but the good of the other person.” (I Cor. 10:23-24) Indeed, we must seriously consider how our behavior affects the next generation rather than focus on self-enjoyment as justified by personal freedom and right. In this context, just because I “can” do something does not mean I “should” do it. Every desire with behavior has consequence that will affect self and others as none of us live in isolated island. On this basis, I submit you to refrain from any “softer” form of gambling for the better future of our next generation since there are many good recreations that have more beneficial values than gambling.
How About You?
The gambling issue that presented here is just the tip of the iceberg. Your valuable comments and dialogues after this reading are most welcomed here.
1. Could gambling be merely as recreation without ethical precept?
2. What is your view towards social gambling (friendship bonding)? Why?
3. For Christians, how should the church of Jesus Christ actively engaging with gambling issues?
 “Gambling,” http://www.ahdictionary.com/word/search.html?q=gambling&submit.x=66&submit.y=24 (accessed July 2, 2013).
 National Council on Problem Gambling, “Report of Survey on Participation in Gambling Activities Among Singapore Residents, 2008: Perceptions of Various Gambling Forms as Leisure Activities,” Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports of Singapore, http://app.msf.gov.sg/Portals/0/Summary/research/ publications-survey-gambling08.pdf (accessed July 1, 2013).
 “ Global Betting and Gaming Consultants, http://www.gbgc.com/2011/06/asia-becomes-worlds-biggest-gambling-region/#!prettyPhoto (accessed July 1, 2013). GBGC is an independent, specialist gambling consultancy firm dedicated to providing gambling data, research, industry trends, and advice to the international gambling industry. Asia overtook Europe to become the world' largest gambling region in 2010. Asian gambling revenues surged by 20% in 2010 to US$ 122 billion , whilst revenues from all gambling activities in Europe fell by 3% to US$ 114 billion according to Global Betting and Gaming Consultants' (GBGC) sixth edition of its comprehensive Global Gambling Report -.
 John M. Glionna, “Gambling Seen as No-Win Situation for Some Asians” under “Gambling, Addiction, and Asian Culture,” Asian-Nation Blog, http://www.asian-nation.org/gambling.shtml (accessed July 2, 2013). In John’s article, gambling has become America's adult pastime of choice. Each year, more money is spent in the nation's $75-billion gaming industry than on movies, concerts, sporting events and amusement parks combined.
 Problem of gambling is the same issue of these two sources. John M. Glionna, “Gambling Seen as No-Win Situation for Some Asians” under “Gambling, Addiction, and Asian Culture,” Asian-Nation Blog, http://www. asian-nation.org /gambling.shtml (accessed July 2, 2013). The other source is from National Council on Problem Gambling, “Report of Survey on Participation in Gambling Activities Among Singapore Residents, 2011,” Ministry of social and Family Development of Singapore http://app.msf.gov.sg/ResearchRoom/ResearchStatistics/SurveyonGambling ParticipationAmongSpore2011.aspx (accessed July 2, 2013).
 National Council on Problem Gambling, “Survey on the Perceptions and Attitudes Towards Gambling Issues,” http://app.msf.gov.sg/Portals/0/Summary/research/Media_Release_on_2007_PE_Survey_Final_.pdf (accessed July 2, 2013).
 National Council on Problem Gambling, “Report of Survey on Participation in Gambling Activities Among Singapore Residents, 2008: Probable Problem and Pathological Gambling Screening Criteria,” Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports of Singapore, http://app.msf.gov.sg/Portals/0/Summary/research/ publications-survey-gambling08.pdf (accessed July 1, 2013). It provides diagnostic criteria for problem and pathological gambling.
 The perspective is derived from one of the case study. Louis P. Pojman and James Fieser, Ethics: Discovering Right and Wrong, 7th ed. (Wadsworth: Cengage Learning, 2012), 81-82.
 “How Gambling Really Works,” Addiction Foundation of Manitoba, http://getgamblingfacts.ca/how-gambling-really-works/ (accessed July 2, 2013). Learning about these concepts will help gamblers understand why they usually spend more than they win.
 This commentary of the word covet (khamad) is taken from NET Bible Study Environment, “covet,” https://net.bible.org /#!bible/Exodus+20:4 (accessed July 2, 2013).
 Timothy Morgan, “The Invisible Addiction,” Christianity Today, April 8, 1996, 12.
 National Council on Problem Gambling, “Survey on Perceptions and Attitudes towards Gambling in Singapore, 2007: Specific Beliefs About Gambling,” http://app.msf.gov.sg/Portals/0/Summary/research/Media Release_on_2007_PE_Survey_Final_.pdf (accessed July 2, 2013).