Last week the U.S. Supreme Court struck down that Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PAPSA) law, which basically made it illegal to have any type of legalized sports betting in any state, with the exception of Nevada. However, New Jersey’s law-makers, asked why Nevada got to have all the “fun,” and filed suit. They won their case, as the Supreme Court, in a 6-3 decision, stated that it was not Constitutional to allow only one state a privilege that it did not allow to the other 49. The justices did not make law in this case, but simply decided if the law was Constitutional. Justice Alito stated that it was up to Congress to regulate it fairly, but that if they decided not to take action, then the states got to do so.
Sports betting is a lucrative business. Billions of dollars in revenue are made every year through it (or should I say: billions of dollars are lost every year through it). Many who were not tempted to even attempt this type of gambling, will now have that temptation right at their fingertips because it will be so close to home. That means that even more billions of dollars will be lost, or revenues gained (if you’re the state).
But what does the Bible say about gambling? It actually doesn’t give any instruction or commands that are directly related to it. However, there are some principles that do. When putting the principles and/or indirect instruction/commands together, we see that gambling is wrong.
The first question: why do people gamble in the first place? The number one reason people gamble is to make money, and hopefully a lot of money. Of course, it goes straight to the heart of the matter when we see Paul has written, “But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs,” (1 Timothy 6:9-10, ESV). The number one reason people gamble is to get rich, and to get rich quick. They love money and love what money can do for them. That love is the root of all kinds of evil. Murders, divorces, thievery, embezzlement, prostitution, etc. can often be traced back to one’s love for money and what it can buy. If a person’s gambling happens because they want money, then it falls within these parameters included in “kinds of evils.”
But perhaps they do it for the thrill. That’s the other reason behind it. They couldn’t care less if they won. I’m less likely to believe this, but okay. The person isn’t using their grocery money on lottery tickets or horse races or slot machines. Just a couple of bucks here and there, just for the thrill. Is it any different than renting a movie or going to Six Flags? Perhaps not, but what if you were to find out that lotteries, casinos, and sports betting are designed to take advantage of those who cannot afford it? Like so much pornography that is online that exploit young girls and women, so the lottery, casinos, and sports betting is designed to exploit the poor. They give them hope, build up their confidence, and outright lie, to gain the money of those who need it most: the poor. Like the porn industry, they make promises they can’t keep, and ruin individuals’ and families’ lives in the process. One who seeks to live by the second great commandment to love your neighbor as yourself, will not be complicit in their exploitation.
Of course, the argument is made then, that no one should be putting money in the stock market since money is lost and gained. Hey! Even life is a gamble. These are silly straw-men arguments. The stock market is not gambling. It has its gains and losses as any business would, but it has never bottomed out. What is lost is generally gained back without having to throw good money after bad. There has never been a time when every business in the stock market closed shop and went bankrupt. Plus, Christ calls on us to be shrewd with our money, to be good stewards, and even to look to make interest on it if we can.
In life, we are to trust our sovereign God. He is in control of everything. “The lot is cast into the lap, but its decision is from the LORD,” (Proverbs 16:33, ESV). Often people will use this verse to prove it is okay to gamble. But that was the opposite of Solomon’s point. If you do it, you believe it to be chance. Yet it is God that determines if you win or lose. He is in control of your life. There is no luck. No chance. Don’t live as if there is.
That last thing I would say about this is that our chief-end as man-kind is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. Is it truly possible to gamble and give glory to God? “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God,” (1 Corinthians 10:31, ESV). Yes, we could say that about anything, and we should (as that is the point). But here, in this article, I ask the question as it pertains to gambling. Can we gamble in an effort to satisfy our love of money to the glory of God? Can we gamble with its exploitation of the poor and our complicity in it to the glory of God? Can we live as if there is luck rather than a sovereign God to that same God’s glory?
I’d venture to say we cannot. Thus, gambling is sin. And we must avoid it at all costs (no pun intended).
I’d love to hear your thoughts on the matter. Leave me a comment below.