I’ll bet…

The mighty Manly Warringah Sea Eagles are on a roll. I was so confident they’d beat the Panthers that I placed a bet with a friend of mine who happens to support them. Is this wrong? If I was sure the Sea Eagles were going to win isn’t that tantamount to stealing? If I was uncertain – is that poor stewardship of my money? Is gambling in and of itself wrong – or is it the associated greed? I don’t want the $5 that Pat is going to have to cough up because his team are unable to function effectively as a unit – I wasn’t motivated by greed. I just like to win. A game is infinitely more enjoyable if there’s actually something weighing on the outcome – by enjoyable I mean exciting – there’s more adrenalin involved if you actually might win or lose something depending on the outcome. But am I going to hell because of this bet? (well no, I’m not going to hell… at this point that was a little bit of rabbitical hyperbole… not that I’m claiming to be a Rabbi, or a rabbit…) Is gambling sinful? Should we be condoning or facilitating any form of greed. The Catholics have been running Bingo competitions as fundraisers for years so they obviously don’t have a problem with it. Neither does the Australian Chief Executive of Woolworths who is a professing Christian.

In that story above (by above I mean contained in the link above…) he made some pretty carefully considered statements about the decision his company has made to invest in a series of gaming establishments.

“I don’t think that’s a moral judgment, I think what is a moral judgment is that one needs to be careful and concerned about the environment in which they sell in the market facilities of that nature.”

While personally I don’t have a problem with gambling if you can remove the element of greed from the equation – if it’s budgeted entertainment with no addiction involved then go for it… who am I to say that using a pokie machine is any less fun than playing an arcade game. My problem is making a distinction like Mr Woolworths (not his real name) has made here. It reminds me of a scene from the Godfather where the Mafia Dons (head honchos) are gathered round a table discussing a move into the narcotics industry – one of them says ”

“I don’t want it near schools — I don’t want it sold to children! That’s an infamia. In my city, we would keep the traffic in the dark people — the colored. They’re animals anyway, so let them lose their souls… “

Somehow the logic in both those quotes seems strikingly similar to me – as long as we’re careful where we put the bad stuff people can go and do the bad stuff if they choose to. Gambling addiction is, without question, a destructive thing. Like the Whitlams I wish I could blow up the pokies… but then I’d lose out on cheap pub steaks designed to attract gamblers. So in conclusion I haven’t exactly figured out my position on gambling yet… but I thought that article was interesting… particularly the quote below, and the fact that Mr Woolworths said he’d be happy to sell bullets at supermarkets if it was legal and there was demand for them. Again, not a moral decision apparently. But where do we draw the line for Christians involved in business? Is it wrong to work at Maccas if they cause obesity? Is it wrong to be a lawyer? I think Mr Woolworths actually has it right in this case…

“I believe that I’ll be accountable one day for my life and so to that extent I’ll be accountable for my integrity,” he said.

The author

Nathan runs St Eutychus. He loves Jesus. His wife. His daughter. His son. His other daughter. His dog. Coffee. And the Internet. He is the campus pastor at Creek Road South Bank, a graduate of Queensland Theological College (M. Div) and the Queensland University of Technology (B. Journ). He spent a significant portion of his pre-ministry-as-a-full-time-job life working in Public Relations, and now loves promoting Jesus in Brisbane and online. He can't believe how great it is that people pay him to talk and think about Jesus.

22 thoughts on “I’ll bet…”

  1. The moral question of gambling is quite an interesting one. I’ve read lots of different takes on the issue.

    One helpful point I once read was on the difference between gambling and investing on the stockmarket. The writer of this article (maybe it was Philip Johson of Grace Bible Church in the states) argued that the difference was in the “winners” and the “losers”.

    In gambling, if you win, then everyone else loses. If you’re playing Poker and you win money, then everyone else has just lost money. Therefore your greed has been “unloving” because you’ve taken from everyone else.

    On the stockmarket however, if you “win” then everyone else who invested in a similar manner also wins. There may be losers – if you invest in a company that makes it’s money unethically, but the general idea of the stockmarket is that when one person wins, everyone else wins and if one person looses, then everyone else looses. However, the winners don’t take from the losers, as in gambling.

  2. But daniel. I (who will remain nameless)buy the odd scratchy from time to time and have to much fun scratching off the panels and revealing the numbers that I really don’t mind the fact that I lose

  3. my guess is that that is my sister…

    She makes a good point though – what about government run lotteries where the winners and losers are less obvious and the money raised goes towards the greater good of society?

  4. If it was raining mansions I wouldn’t even win an out the back dunny. (Just thought i’d comtribute to the raging discussion)

  5. Another side of the coin… (sorry, couldn’t resist)

    What about being seen to be dependent on God? I’ve heard the argument that we shouldn’t gamble because it presents the image we’re not being dependent on God. I’m not sure if I buy it in isolation, as God is sovereign anyway (whether you win/lose/abstain), but what about the idea of presenting a different face to the world?

    How does that affect involvement in fund-raising raffles/art unions for worthy cause? Do you just donate the same money? Would you have given money, if not for the chance of the prize? If you would have given money without the prize, and win, should you give it back, as obviously the whole point is them trying to raise money, can you really accept something so valuable?

  6. n the case of the gov’t run scratchy, I don’t see it as much different in the use described, as say, paying for a sideshow game at the ekka. A fee for a few moments of entertainment, with the “potential stakes” as a bonus.

    Where there becomes an obsession with either the “thrill” (lack of self-control) or the “potential stakes” (greed) then it becomes harmful.

    Though in both the scratchy and sideshow, the winners are getting only a fraction of the combined losings of every loser, and the “house” takes away the cream.

  7. I agree. Poker is much more exciting if everyone puts $2 in the pot at the beginning of the night.

  8. 3 times I’ve played poker for money with a $5 buy in, and I’m on average $32.50 in the black. Two of those times I’ve actually taken Nathans money. Now, is that wrong? I guess it comes down to what percentage of skill and what percentage of luck is involved in that game. If its luck then I guess its gambling, if its skill then I guess its thievery. Either way, taking Nathans money is fun.

  9. Apologies, that should read in total I’m $32.50 up, not on average. It payed for a week’s food. I’m a poor uni bum.

  10. Apologies, that should read in total I’m $32.50 up, not on average. It payed for a week’s food. I’m a poor uni bum.

  11. Apologies, that should read in total I’m $32.50 up, not on average. It payed for a week’s food. I’m a poor uni bum.

  12. I do what I can to help out uni bums… I was there once. You Townsville people are too conservative with your poker playing. I get bored.

  13. At least with fixed stakes poker you have a limit, it does add something to the game, and subsidises the winner supplying munchies for next time… Oh you didn’t know about that…

  14. That’s a food for thought Daniel about the stock market, I’ve been puzzled by this concept for awhile. I’m thinking particularly of short term money markets, where traders can buy and sell millions of dollars worth of shares in a few hours.
    Would you make the conclusion that this trading is acceptable because day-traders aren’t exactly taking from others (ie acting in an ‘unloving’ manner)? (Day traders play a pivotol role in the ‘correction’ market ‘errors’ ie buying underpriced shares and selling overpriced stocks thus evening out poorly priced items)
    I guess I still get caught up in Mark’s argument – an obsession with either the “thrill” (lack of self-control) or the “potential stakes” (greed) becoming harmful. So where a trader is enticed into either the thrill or the potential winnings, much damage can be caused. For example, traders snatching up stock simply to overinflate price and make profit (at the expense of others). Thanks for clearing up this guys!

  15. I’m not saying the thrill is bad, it’s when the desire to have the thrill becomes overwhelming or disproportionate to the rest of life that it is a problem (You don’t have to act on the desire though). When you indiscriminately indulge in fulfilling this desire it becomes harmful to yourself and others.

    I guess that description extends to most behaviours that are “not harmful” at an objective level, but can become addictive/compulsive.

  16. As for the day-traders, if their motivation is to do their job well and get the best deals for their customers, without manipulating the system in illegal/immoral ways, etc, then I think that’s ok. It’s also ok if they enjoy the rush of dealing /gambling in a high-pressure, risky and dynamic environment too.

    But like any job/activity it needs to fit into the mix of all the other parts of life.

    Are you thinking of going into day-trading, Sara? We could shake up a couple of hundred to get you started. :)

  17. Why do you consider Mr Woolworths comments about being careful who he markets it to, to be bad? He may be thinking, “hm, let’s get everyone ,that’s not in a habit of getting addicted, to start gambling, and target them!” Now this would be pretty crappy business as the addicts are the ones that makes you money.. but still.

    Oh, and I bet that Arsenal will beat United atleast twice this year! I bet you a postcard with a fish on it!

  18. You’re on Matty… I’ll go one better than that – If Arsenal beat Man U twice in any competition (including League and FA Cup) I’ll send you a postcard with a fish on it.

  19. A fish on a post card will be pretty rancid by the time it travels to either Brisbane or Townsville. Why not bet a postcard with a flower on it instead.

  20. Depends how you prepare the fish- and how you send it. I decided that poker games are gambling because I always lose ( that puts me down to -30)

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