Friday, July 5, 2013

Gambling: Recreation without Ethical Precept?

By HK.Lee
Taken from
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.”[1] Basically, gambling has an idea of taking a risk in the hope of gaining an advantage or a benefit.[2]

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.[3]   

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![4] Surprisingly, this gambling tsunami also pointing to the fact that Asians gambler is a huge market even in the America.[5] 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.[6] 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.[7] 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[8]. 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.[9] Gambling beautifies its non-ethical selfishness with entertainment elements which it eventually entraps gamblers into the No-Win predicament.[10] 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.”[11]

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.”[12]

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.[13] 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?   

[2] Ibid.

[3] 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, publications-survey-gambling08.pdf (accessed July 1, 2013).

[4]Asia Becomes World' Biggest Gambling Region,” Global Betting and Gaming Consultants,!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 - Betting on Regulation.

[5] John M. Glionna, “Gambling Seen as No-Win Situation for Some Asians” under “Gambling, Addiction, and Asian Culture,” Asian-Nation Blog, (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.

[6] 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. /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 ParticipationAmongSpore2011.aspx (accessed July 2, 2013).  

[7] National Council on Problem Gambling, “Survey on the Perceptions and Attitudes Towards Gambling Issues,”  (accessed July 2, 2013).

[8] 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, publications-survey-gambling08.pdf (accessed July 1, 2013). It provides diagnostic criteria for problem and pathological gambling.

[9] 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.

[10] “How Gambling Really Works,” Addiction Foundation of Manitoba, (accessed July 2, 2013). Learning about these concepts will help gamblers understand why they usually spend more than they win.

[11] This commentary of the word covet (khamad) is taken from NET Bible Study Environment, “covet,” /#!bible/Exodus+20:4 (accessed July 2, 2013).

[12] Timothy Morgan, “The Invisible Addiction,” Christianity Today, April 8, 1996, 12.

[13] National Council on Problem Gambling, “Survey on Perceptions and Attitudes towards Gambling in Singapore, 2007: Specific Beliefs About Gambling,” Release_on_2007_PE_Survey_Final_.pdf (accessed July 2, 2013).


  1. Wow, this is an interesting article. Yes, many Christian today are arguing over whether did bible told us not to gambling? They are trying to make the "grey area" white.

    Personally I was grow up in a strong gambling background environment. I watched my father play mahjong with his friends since 4 or 5 years old and used to help my parent buy lottery. I myself learn to gambling since 7 years old and am very familiar with most kind of gambling method.

    The problem of gambling is really not about it is softer gambling or harder form of gambling because there is only 1 motive which is greed behind every gambling, no matter big or small, soft or hard. All gambler are covet over others possession, they hope to win others money.

    I am very agree with this statement that "Gambling beautifies its non-ethical selfishness with entertainment elements which it eventually entraps gamblers into the No-Win predicament." If you really study the rules of casino games well, you will find that there is no 50-50 chance to win, but 48-52 which mean the gambler have the lesser chance.

  2. Gambling is anything that involves bet with the anticipation for greater gain. what makes gambling an ethical problem is that it breaches the fundamental principle of earning- hard work. it fosters an environment where anyone can just sit and earn so gambling institutions are primary breeding ground of fraud. it also breaches the idea of community spirit and common good. everyone wants to win, regardless of what consequence is in store for the loser. only one or few wins while myriads would lost their hard earned money.

  3. Well since the bible have not mentioned it in the bible does not mean that it is right or wrong. But at the end of it one must ask what is the fundamental of christianity. The personal testimony of a person on another person, we as christian tho not perfect are always exposed to such activities. I for one am a social "gambler" (i buy number on special occasions) but does it make me any better or worse as a christians.

    Buying numbers is just one form of gambling but isn't the decisions we make every day a form of gambling too ? So does buying and selling stock a form of gambling ? Is trading forex a form of gambling ? I have heard of people losing millions in gambling in casino and also heard of people losing millions in the stock market.

    For me a lot of action will still come down to how does it effect the people around you. That would be the ultimate question as it will open another can of worms. Like how is is much ?

  4. To comment about the saying " Gamblers could justify their gambling as leisure activities as long as they are not in big lost or suffer from Problem Gambling". I agree with this statement, because usually when someone has discover he is putting too much money or effort or time into this activities, it already became a habit and is very difficult for them to come out of it.

    From my own experience, I was grown up from an environment that everyone is involve in gambling, no matter in small or big amount. And while I start to have some pocket money in my teenage. We started to invent all sort of gambling methods. Most of the time we will bet among our friends, I can said the most harmful effect for me in this period of life is that we always covet for our friends money, there is so difficult to build a genuine friendship, because we have some other motive behind. I can continue to state many cases around us that gambling will not only harm a person life, but also his family. Finally, by the power of gospel, me and my family member able to see the reality behind this and walk out from the bondage of this. Praise be to God!

  5. Though,the Bible does not talk clearly about it, it has caused many problems in the family and society. It has issue of greedy so I would say that it's not good practice for Christian even for fun.

  6. Personally, I don't think there is a grey area. In example, swallowing an ecstasy pill and half a pill, the outcome is the same, you are still doing drugs. Grey area is merely an excuse for the people to do what is wrong. With the Bible or without the bible, everyone knows that gambling is one of the biggest problem in this world. Small scale looking in it, gambling could rob a family off their financial stability and peace,in a bigger scale every year all the nations around the world is facing the trouble of money leaking out from their country through online betting. So there is no grey area to speak of.

    From my experience, people relate gambling to speculating. By changing their perspective on this, they too hope to change the fact that they are actually gambling. I have friends that tell me, :"I'm just speculating the result of the soccer match. it's like buying stocks! based on their winning records we speculate of they are going to win. It is an investment!". The thing that is truly sick, is the fact that people has gone so far off, that they twisted the truth and psycho themselves into thinking gambling is an investment, where they could hope for a great return.

    We are in a generation where everyone wants to be rich, nothing wrong, but everyone wants to be rich FAST and not willing to work for it. And that's when people to turn to the so called alternative fast-cash method, lottery, sports betting and casinos. Talking about entertainment gambling, personally don't feel that they are only doing it to socialize. Everyone in this world, their drive in gambling is always hoping in return they could win some cash. I supposed no one go to gamble with a mindset of "never mind even if I lose".

    Christianity or not, was it debated in the bible or not, none of them really matter. Ultimately we are reaching out to the people that are suffering from this "Sickness". People has to see the thing they are really messing with, is their own life. The stake they are betting with, is not merely money, but their family, future and soul. With this I will conclude. Thank you for the given opportunity of posting a comment here.

    God Bless you Heng Kee, Prayers be with your family and ministry.

  7. Gambling is an easy way to bypass work, but the Bible counsels us to persevere and work hard to get our needs:

    Lazy hands make a man poor, but diligent hands bring wealth. (Proverbs 10:4, NIV)

  8. For me ,once it becomes an addicted behavior, it has negative impact to the family and society.They are many who will spend most of their money and time in gambling, which normally will put them into financial crisis, or neglect the family needs. Thus, I think gambling in this manner is really something bad.
    However, I also come to know there are some families will spend time together to play "mahjong" and while playing, they will share their life.This is the only one exceptional case that I think it is ok for "gambling".

  9. The definition of gambling as HK suggested involves the betting of, whether mahjong or Russian roulette played for the fun of it without any exchange is not gambling. The question we need to ask is why do we gamble?
    Gambling is pure chance, it involves risks, it is low input for high returns. The adrenalin rush means it is fast exchange unlike investments which is slow returns over a period of time after much research and prayer. Gambling will not find us on our knees.
    What is the spirit behind gambling? It definitely is Not from the Holy Spirit! It is a spirit of greed, a spirit of covetousness. An avaricious person Never has enough; (s)he is always wanting more. Another question: whose is the owner of all we have - money and lives? We are only stewards, everything belongs to God. Do we have the right to gamble then?

  10. For those who are desperate appeal for a "get rich quick" is often a temptation too hard to hold. The opportunity to win is so small that as a result many lives being ruined—talk about casino; as we know
    Casinos use all forms of marketing to attract gamblers to risk as much money as possible. They often offer liquor for cheap or even free, which encourages drunkenness, and a decreased ability to make wise decisions. Everything in a casino is perfectly rigged to earn huge amounts of money and does not return anything, except for fleeting and empty pleasures.
    We have to find a way how to teach people with the right perspective about this in such away, so that people are not easy to get loose because of gambling.

    1. When laying the foundation of casinos in its construction, charms and invoking of evil spirits Is involved.

  11. I believe that gambling involves a lot of greed inside a persons heart, although maybe it seems like just a recreation or friendship bonding, but the longer they played, the greed grows as the person is unsatisfied with what they have. The gamblers thinking of when they win this time, they will want more, but if they loses, they will feel like "I must get back the money I lost". And then they are fall into the devil's trap or bondage to never get out of the game.

    On the other hand, gambling makes a person believe their life depends on luck, and for them to get more luck, they have to pray for their 'gods of luck' to give them more luck,and the superstitious mindset comes in where they cannot do this cannot do that and must do this and do that, especially in the Chinese New year for the Chinese. And as a result of that, we become bond to the authority of the satan. So I think that Christians so make a good example for all the non-believers and the next generation to not fall into the devil's trap.

    Sorry HK for the late posting...

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