“Gambling:  The sure way of getting nothing for something.”

                                                          -- Wilson Mizner


Gambling Mania – a Global PLAGUE!



Millions are seeking excitement and thrills through the allure of gambling.

From bingo to blackjack, roulette to horse racing, lotteries and casinos,

gambling is a worldwide plague.  And beneath the glitter and glamour is

the sinister shadow of the underworld.  Why do people gamble?  Is gambling

a SIN?  Are games of chance, risking money, just having “fun”?  Should

people engage in gambling as pastime, or leisure activity?  What is really

involved in gambling?  What about the lotto?   This article examines the

problems of gambling and why it is an ungodly practice.


William F. Dankenbring


Is gambling wrong?  Or is it just “fun and games,” pure entertainment?  What is it about gambling that appeals so strongly to people?  Is there some dark, sinister, shadowy force behind the glittering meccas of gambling casinos that seduces people to do something that in reality is ruinous and antithetical to their live and future?


In ancient times, games of chance often turned into an addiction, among the Greeks.  The Romans bet heavily on chariot races.  The Teutonic people also appreciated gambling, so much so that the historian Tacitus states that in their less sober moments they even gambled themselves into slavery!


            Among the ancient Jews, the professional gambler was severely frowned upon.  “The professional gambler was considered a parasite who was engaged in a useless endeavor and contributed nothing to better the world.  Some rabbis went so far as to consider the professional gambler a robber . . . he was looked upon as a spineless wastrel who, instead of engaging in the study of Torah or in the pursuit of an honest livelihood, frittered his time and efforts away on a demeaning occupation and unseemly conduct” (Encyclopedia Judaica, “Gambling,” vol. 7, p.301).


            Says this authority, “The rabbis recognized the inability of the compulsive gambler to control his passion for the game, considering him a moral weakling, and consequently dealt with him severely. . . . Public calamities that befell the Jewish community were often considered the consequence of, and the punishment for, excessive gambling. . . . Community leaders, keenly aware of the painful and destructive effects of gambling upon an individual’s character, meted out severe punishment.”  In the Middle Ages, the playing of games of chance came to be recognized in many Jewish communities as a criminal offense.


            The Jewish rabbis made a distinction between games of skill, and games of chance, however.  Games of skill were considered lawful, whereas games of chance were prohibited. 


            In Jewish law, people who play games of dice are sinners “in whose hands in craftiness” (Psalm 26:10).  The verse states, “Do not sweep me away with sinners . . . [those] who have schemes at their fingertips, and hands full of bribes” (Tanakh).  The King James Version says, “in whose hands is mischief.”  The Hebrew word for “mischief” is zimmah, meaning “a plan, especially a bad one, heinous crime, mischief, purpose, thought, wicked device, wicked mind.”  These are those who calculate with their left hand and covering with their right hand, defrauding and robbing each other. 


A Way of Life”


Gambling of all kinds is big business, today, around the world!  In many Western countries, gambling has become for many people almost a “way of life”!  Over 80% of U.S. adults have reportedly gambled at least once in the last year. 


Says U.S. News and World Report:

“A record 73 million Americans, up nearly 20 million from just five years ago, will                         patronize one of the nation’s more than 1,200 casinos, card rooms, or bingo parlors              this year. The average gambler visits a casino nearly six times a year – almost twice                as often as he did a decade ago. At least 6 million Americans will click a bet on one                of 2,300 online gaming sites. Altogether, gamblers will lose more than $80 billion                         on everything from the Triple Crown to the flop of a card this year. There seems to                      be no stopping America’s gambling mania. The opening last month of the lavish, $2.7                    billion Wynn Las Vegas casino has already sparked a me-too construction boom.                           And gambling is becoming even more convenient. New cellphone programs put real-                money poker games in your pocket, and soon you may be able to spin a roulette wheel              on a Virgin Atlantic flight.”

            Notice that some $80 billion is lost annually on the gambling mania that has some 73 million Americans held fast in its grip! 


            U.S. News and World Report continues:


                        Casino executives say the growth is simply due to a host of innovations that make                                   gambling more fun. And most gamblers would agree. But what Bazua and other                                       gamblers may not realize is that behind all that glitz is an army of behavioral scientists,                                 technowizards, and mathematicians with one goal: to finesse ever more money out of                                     your wallet, whether in front of the slot machine, at the blackjack table, in the celebrity                                  chef restaurant, or at the concert hall.

“Their methods of improving the house odds are often covert, cleverly exploiting your                    naivete, foibles, and, let’s be honest, lousy math skills. Brick-and-mortar casinos, which                 are highly regulated, use myriad subtle and legal means to manipulate bettors. They offer               free drinks to reduce inhibitions, use artificial lighting to mask the passage of time, and                         even crowd slot machines to make it seem like there is a multitude of winners. And now,              new Big Brother-like systems help many casinos keep tabs on players and figure out the                 most cost-effective way to cajole them into betting more . . .”


In the year 2003, the gross revenues from gambling in the U.S. were $72.9 billion – more money than Americans spend on movie tickets, theme parks, spectator sports, and videogames combined.   More than half the states have casinos, now, and 48 allow some form of legalized gambling.


Says Focus on the Family, “Gambling has attained unprecedented levels of acceptance, glamorization, and popularity in the United States.  Once confined to the remote desert region of Nevada, gambling, in one form or another, is now legal in 48 of the 50 states.  Utah and Hawaii are the only exceptions.”


The fact is, gambling has spread exponentially in the past 10 years!


In Canada, gambling began to explode in popularity a dozen or so years ago. It has become a $13 billion dollar a year industry – the availability of gambling opportunities is unparalleled in Canadian history.  There are now some 887,000 gambling machines (slot machines and video lottery terminals), 33,000 lottery ticket centers, 60 permanent casinos, 250 race tracks and teletheaters, and 25,000 licenses to run various bingo, temporary casinos, raffles, and other activities. 


Like drug addiction and alcohol abuse, gambling crosses the entire economic spectrum.  Gambling, like adultery and non-marital sex, is widely considered an activity which is acceptable and fun.  Yet millions cross over the line where it becomes compulsive, abnormal, and destructive.  The behavior is a very high stakes game where friendships, family, finances, and reputations are all put at great risk.


Strange as it may seem, like drugs, gambling can convey a sense of euphoria, like a drug induced “high.”  It is generally very ego-driven, controlling, risk taking, narcissistic, and like the narcissist the gambler needs a feeling of approval, affirmation, and confirmation.


Gambling Addiction


Action gamblers are generally male, very bright intellectually, begin gambling in their teens, and play games requiring skills, like black jack, poker, sports betting, trading stocks or bonds, commodities, or options and futures.  They generally possess low self esteem and have a tendency to bend or twist the truth or outright lie.  The action gambler generally progresses through four phases – wining, losing, desperation, and finally hopelessness.  He may gamble between 10 and 30 years before the problem becomes so severe that help is sought.  But by that time,, the addiction to gambling has generally progressed to the point that gambling seems much more important than family, friends, jobs, outside interests, and the gambler is in serious danger of losing everything of value in his life!


If you confront him or her about their problem, the likely response will be total denial, and rationalization, or an attempt to manipulate the confronter into thinking he or she will change.


“Escape” gamblers, on the other hand, are generally 75% female.  Normally the problem occurs later in life, when about 30 year of age or older.  Their games involve things requiring little skill – like slot machines, bingo, or the lottery.  Escape gamblers often appear numb, as if in a hypnotic trance when gambling away.  They feel no emotional or physical pain while gambling, their minds utterly focused on the addiction.


The Problem with Lotteries


            Years ago, a 16-year old boy in Atlantic City took $6,000, four years’ worth of newspaper delivery earnings, and spent all of the money on lottery tickets in a single day.  He lost.  He killed himself that evening by slitting his wrists.


            Modern day lotteries began in New Hampshire in 1964.  Since them 37 other states have followed suit.  In totality, American lotteries now constitute the largest gambling operation in all history, and generated some $34 billion in 1997 alone. 


            Lottery outlets are like dandelions – almost everywhere, the corner grocery store, liquor stores, motels, restaurants – and therefore entice more people into participating.  Says Lorenz, “You have no idea how many people say, ‘I wish I could leave Maryland – I can’t get away from the lottery!”


            Lottery playing is addictive.  Some 5 percent of lottery players account for 51% of sales.  This small group of people are the ones who make lotteries profitable, but they have a mental disorder.  State run lotteries take advantage of the weakness and vulnerability of these people.  This is compounded by the fact that state-run lotteries are not subject to the “truth in advertising” standards of commercial businesses.  Much of their advertising is very misleading – even out and out deceptive.  They emphasize themes of fun and excitement, and only 16% mention the real odds of winning. 


            In the summer of 1999, the National Gambling Impact Study Commission in the United States issued a report criticizing state lotteries for their role in pathological gambling.  The commission found that some 5.4 million Americans are considered pathological or problem gamblers, and another 15.4 million are at risk of becoming problem gamblers!


            In 1997, statewide lotteries extracted $16 billion from ordinary people hoping to hit the jackpot!  Historically, states outlawed or tightly controlled gambling.  Now they often promote them with vigor and advertising!  How times have changed.  Politicians love lotteries, because they gain revenues from them, allowing them to avoid raising taxes.  The lotteries, in effect, are just another way to TAX the public! 


            The state of Massachusetts sells $500 worth of lottery tickets every year for every man, woman and child in the state!  The lottery accounts for 13% of the state’s entire annual budget.  Sales are more than $3 billion, today.  The Boston Globe documented how the lottery has saturated the poor neighborhoods with outlets.  One poor man buying a ticket said, “This is my retirement plan. I’m going to hit it big!”  A store owner told the reporter, “The lottery is no good.  It robs from the poor.  It robs from my neighbors.  People lose a lot of money.  The government has no business being involved.”


            Even the very few who win, are not really winners at all.  Reported the New York Post, “About once a month, on average, a hapless millionaire winner of one of the 37 state lotteries goes bust and files for bankruptcy, experts say.  That’s the rags-to-riches fate of about one-third of all winners.”


Valerie C. Lorenz, an expert on pathological gambling, who has studied the problem for almost three decades, says the reintroduction of the lottery has changed social attitudes towards gambling, leading to legalizing other gambling activities and encouraging a supply of future gamblers. 


Says Lorenz, “They become so out of control.  When someone drinks too much, at some point they pass out.  If someone gamblers to the point of being out of control, they will try to win it back.  They chase their losses, and in a 48-hour period the losses can become huge.”


Role of Organized Crime


But often lurking behind the back doors of the gambling casinos is the threatening hand of the syndicate – organized crime. 


There are nearly 300 Indian casinos on reservations across the country, earning an estimated $7 billion in annual revenues. Except for a few hundred people, however, most American Indians haven’t gained a penny from casinos.  The Minneapolis Star  Tribune reported that unemployment in that state remains at over 50%, the same as before the casinos were introduced.  In South Dakota, unemployment has actually increased since the advent of casinos.


Says Dr. Dobson,, “In many cases, Indian tribes are nothing but a front for Las Vegas gambling interests looking to enter new markets, knowing they can pocket up to 40% of Indian casino profits via ‘management contracts.’”


The Indian tribes, of course, pay no taxes, federal or state. 


Interestingly, gambling on the reservations is a trap for many tribal members.  Gambling addiction rates are TWICE as high among Indians compared with the rest of the population!


The infamous Cosa Nostra (meaning “Our Thing”) controls much of the gambling in the United States.  The criminal underground obtain much of their ill-gotten gain from their casinos and betting shops, cashing in on the all-too-human urge to have a fling, to make a bet, to get something for nothing, to take a chance.  Researchers have reported that criminal organizations make more money every year from illegal gambling and related enterprises than all the profits of General Motors Standard Oil, Ford, General Electric, and United States Steel combined!


HUGE Business


The gambling business sucks in some $72.9 billion a year from its nefarious activities.  It is an enormous “force” in modern day politics, packing great political power, controlling the elections of candidates by its vast political contributions on behalf of those candidates who support their activities. 


According to a U.S. Commission on Law Enforcement, even in the 1960s, “Law enforcement officials agree almost unanimously that gambling is the greatest source of revenue for organized crime.”


Said the Commission in 1960, “There no accurate way of ascertaining organized crime’s gross revenue from gambling in the United States. Estimates the annual intake have varied from $7,000,000,000 to $50,000,000,000, and most enforcement officials believe that illegal wagering on horse races, lotteries, and sporting events to be at least $20,000, 000,000 each year.” 


That was almost 50 years ago!  The $72.9 billion taken in from gambling ventures, today, may be only the tip of the ice berg, when related income from associated businesses is taken into account. 


Gaming operations pour many millions annually into the coffers of organize crime. Profits to racketeers may be as high as one third the gross intake.  Every week, millions Americans make illegal bets with bookmakers. On an average fall weekend, when football games are played across the United States, millions of dollars are bet illegally!


Why Gambling Fever ?


But is it all just “innocent fun,” as many claim? Let’s look at the WHOLE picture! There is more behind the gambling mania gripping much of the world than you might think at first glance.  There is the dark and dangerous underside of gambling – the “fruits” which proliferate in its wake.

“Fun, Fun, Fun”


Human nature craves fun, fast living, and the risks involved in a gambler’s odds. The bright lights of Reno and Las Vegas, Nevada, glitter and twinkle in the desert night, beckoning the tourist with money burning in his pockets.  Reno, local people humorously say, is so close to hell you can see Sparks!  Once enveloped in the gambling atmosphere of these gambling capitals of America, the tourist is encouraged by the racy surroundings to spend his money wildly, to “have a good time.”


The odds, of course, are always carefully managed and are in favor of the house. Though gamblers have what they call “hot and cold streaks” of luck, the longer they play the more compulsive the urge to gamble becomes!  Habitual gamblers forget everything else.


For the compulsive gambler, food is forgotten.  So is sex.  Everything recedes into the vague, nebulous background as the gambler’s concentration approaches a mystical trance as he watches the dice roll, or the roulette wheel spin, or the cards turn up.


The south shore of Lake Tahoe, on the California-Nevada border has become an American gambling Mecca. Large, plush casino-hotels and motels soar into the sky, surrounded by the natural beauty of the lake and mountains.  Harvey’s casino, the Sahara. Tahoe, and other super-plush resort hotels operate day and night, 24 hours a day. Gamblers from California and elsewhere pour into the area every weekend. “High rollers” lose thousands in a single night’s spree.


In order to make a profit, these huge resort-hotels must attract multiple thousands of gamblers every day of the year. The action never stops, flags or relents. On a particularly busy night, young people and elderly, wizened men and old women stand four and five deep, queued up behind the slot machines, waiting their turn at the “one-armed bandits.”


Adding to the worldly allure and glamour of the scene, top-flight night clubs and Hollywood entertainers put on lavish shows, spiced with sex and ribaldry. The greatest names in show business glitter on the marquees, enticing people to come, see the show, and gamble. The atmosphere is racy, sensuous, hedonistic, permissive.  Prostitution flourishes. As long as customers have money to spend lavishly, they are kept contented, satiated with a whirl-wind of sensuous activity.


Brutal Facts


The money bet illegally in the United States every year has been estimated at more than  $50,000,000,000!  Gambling supports over 50,000 master-bookies and 400,000 others.  Gambling finances every conceivable s kind of racket and is the very heartbeat of organized crime both locally and on a national scale. If you scratch the professional operator of gambling enterprises, you will find lurking underneath the narcotics peddler, the loan shark, the white slave trader, and the murderer.


Investigators belie half the gross profit annually is invested by gangsters for bribes, protection, payoffs, and purchasing political influence. The other half is spent in expanding crime an gambling industries, buying into legitimate businesses, labor racketeering, prostitution and bootlegging.


“There’s a sucker born every minute,” said Phineas Taylor Barnum.  And gambling casinos take advantage of this fact.  California tourists flock to Reno and Las Vegas, where they “blow” more money than they pay to build highways and educate their children.


Edward Francis Albee once said, “Never give a sucker an even break.”  Casinos have polished this aphorism to a high-sheen glow.   The attitude of gambling predators is, “Hello, sucker!” And millions plunge into theii establishments.


Nevada officials have estimated some 20 million tourists enter their state every year to gamble. Fifty years ago, most adults played some of the 19,000 slot machines and 1400 gaming tables. There, they bet $2,400,000,000 and lost at least ten percent, or $240,000,000. At least $12,000,000 of this went to the Nevada state treasury.  An added $600,000,000 was spent on entertainment, food, lodging, and other non-gambling but associated items.


A large number of those who flock to Las Vegas to imbibe of the gambling allure, often wind up with no money left to spend – they don’t even have return passage to their home town!  Scores of people wind up sitting, stand, sprawled, lounging, along the highways leading out of Vegas, trying to thumb a ride out, their pockets picked clean. 


Gambling, obviously, is still Nevada’s largest single industry.  Gambling furnishes nearly 30 percent of the state’s tax revenue, and is its second biggest money source.  But now gambling casinos have been legalized on Indian reservations throughout the United States, where billions are now gambled.  The state of Montana has gambling throughout the state.  In traveling through Butte, I saw gambling slot machines at virtually every hotel, motel, and restaurant.  The whole city seemed to have a seedy, negative atmosphere.  It seems gambling runs in the company of alcoholism, drugs, prostitution, and other predatory vices, like a running sore on society.


According to the Post Daily Magazine (New York Post, January 4, 1965), 90 million Americans gamble – some occasionally, some regularly. They bet on state lotteries, horses, numbers, cards, dice, bingo, roulette, wheels of fortune, sporting events, elections, dominoes, punchboards, slot machines, chain letters, etc. Eighty percent of them are losers. They lose $50,000,000,000 a year – but only $800,000,000 of this is known to the Internal Revenue. So obviously the great preponderance of it is illegal.


The Dark Side of Gambling


            Dr. James Dobson, of Focus on the Family, wrote on March 12, 2004, that the net effect of all forms of legalized gambling has been disastrous for our country.  He pointed out four major facts that indict gambling for the vicious vice it really is.  Dobson wrote:


                     “Gambling is driven by and subsists on greed.  For this reason, the activity is 

morally bankrupt from its very foundation. Gambling is also an activity which

exploits the vulnerable – the young, the old, and those susceptible to addictive

behaviors. Further, gambling entices the financially disadvantaged classes with the

unrealistic hope of escape from poverty through instant riches, thus ultimately

worsening the plight of our poorest citizens. Also, gambling undermines the work

ethic. It is based on the premise of something for nothing, a concept that sanctions

idleness rather than industriousness, slothfulness instead of initiative.

   “The more tangible downsides to gambling are similarly disturbing. Legalized                     gambling breeds a host of social ills, as has been demonstrated time and time again                        in areas where gambling has been introduced on a widespread basis.

“Legalized gambling creates gambling addicts. An abundance of research and               expert testimony demonstrates that as gambling expands, so does the number of                 those with serious gambling problems. Millions more Americans have developed                        devastating gambling addictions over the last few years as a direct result of gambl-                ing’s rapid proliferation. Further, these newly created addicts are the lifeblood                               of the industry. Preliminary research indicates that a third or more of gambling                  revenues come from problem and pathological gamblers.


                     Gambling breeds crime. Communities that welcome gambling also welcome an                                    increase in crime. Recent history in communities ranging from Atlantic City to                                          Deadwood, South Dakota, to the Mississippi Gulf Coast indicates that the sheer                                          number of crimes skyrockets in an area once gambling is permitted. Much of this                                     is attributed to the newly created gambling addicts who, in desperation, turn to                                        crime to finance their addiction. Also, legalized gambling makes an attractive target                            for career criminals. Organized crime has infiltrated numerous legal gambling                                            operations in various states in recent years.

“Gambling is an economic negative. Many states and communities embrace gambling                  as a means to generate additional revenues as well as to inspire economic growth,                  boost tourism and create jobs. Gambling’s ability to do all of these is either greatly                     exaggerated or nonexistent. For instance, gambling often hurts, not helps, existing                 businesses by siphoning away discretionary dollars that might otherwise have been                    spent at local shops. Also, the social costs associated with gambling – such as losses                  due to crime, additional law enforcement costs, gambling addiction treatment costs,                       and lost work productivity – are staggering, often far exceeding a state or community’s                 total revenues from gambling.

“Legalized gambling devastates families. Authorities in gambling jurisdictions                    report dramatic increases in divorce, suicide, bankruptcy, and child abuse and                   domestic violence related to gambling. Research shows that children of gambling                       addicts experience lower levels of mental health and physical well-being.

“Given these and other considerations, it is unconscionable that our govern-                      ment would continue to allow -and even promote -gambling activities. Legalized                      gambling is ravaging the lives of untold thousands of individuals and families,                                 arid contributes substantially to the moral decay of our communities. Therefore,                               we believe legalized gambling, in all its forms, should and must be vigorously                     opposed” (family.org, “Gambling,” March 12, 2004).


            These are very strong words, but very accurate.  It’s time our nation and others WAKE UP to the damage and destruction we are doing to our national character!


            The trends are devastating to think about.  Studies show that two-thirds of teens have gambled during the past year.  In Massachusetts, 47 percent of 7th  graders and 75% of high school students have bet on the lottery.  One in twenty of the high schoolers had been arrested for a gambling-related offense.  In a survey of 12,000 Louisiana adolescents, 25% reported playing video poker, 17% had gambled on slot machines, and 10% on horse or dog racing.  Another Louisiana study shows that young people in juvenile detention are four times as likely to have a gambling problem as their peers.


            Studies show that as many as eight percent of teens are already hooked on gambling!  Millions of kids see their parents gamble, and they can’t wait to “get in on the fun.” 


            Says Dr. James Dobson, “For millions, the hold of a gambling addiction is every bit as powerful as illegal drugs or any other addiction.  A study of Gamblers Anonymous members found that only 8 percent were able to stop their gambling even after attending GA for two years.  Many of these young troubled gamblers will remain mired in the cesspool of gambling addiction for years and years to come.”


The Compulsive Gambler


Gambling, of course, like any vice, has legions of victims. Like the alcoholic and dope addict, the compulsive gambler is a sick man. There are perhaps six million gamblers who “can’t quit.”


Evidence accumulates that gambling is becoming one of today’s most worrisome sociological problems. A group of University of Chicago psychologists reported that every year thousands of men and women become HOOKED ON GAMBLING and the betting habit. They gamble compulsively.


In 1945, there were perhaps three million-plus compulsive gamblers, but today there are six million.  One out of every three gamblers could become a compulsive gambler, this report states –could become a helpless victim of a pack of cards, a roulette wheel, the race track bingo, or a lottery.


The compulsive gambler has convinced himself that he will win. He’s sure the odds are secretly in his favor. Just one more bet, and he’ll strike it rich. The more he loses, the more firmly he's sure he will win next time! But subconsciously, he knows better. He may even want to lose !


He may hock all his belongings in order to gamble. He may lose his shirt, even lose his job, his house, and even his family and children.  If he wins, all he can think to do with the money is gamble until he loses it again.


The habitual gambler is a tragedy. He may lead a double life, lying to keep his secret. He habitually takes chances on everything that comes his way. He never quits when he’s ahead, but keeps on gambling. He never learns from his losses.


The compulsive gambler is afraid to face reality.  Gambling is a means of escape from life and its tedium. Lady luck, goddess fortune, and the web of Fate – these fantasies entice him to think one turn of the cards, one spin of the wheel, one roll of the dice, and everything will be wonderful! To him, gambling makes the future glow with promise.


One compulsive gambler in my acquaintance confessed to me he was often bit by the gambling bug.   “I took $5000 of my own money and borrowed $6000 from my mother,” lie related. “Then I went to Reno, started gambling in the evening and gambled all night. I could think of nothing else. Sex, food, time -nothing interested me but the turn of the cards. By the early morning hours I was Bat broke. I lost everything.”


Last I heard, this man did not learn his lesson. He still took fliers to Reno when he has the money and compulsively lost it. He kept going back. To him gambling didn’t seem a sin.  It was just “fun.”  He didn’t see it as a mortal danger to human welfare. To him gambling was a sport – a pleasure – a chance to punch Fate in the nose!  He felt guilty about it, when he lost, but not guilty enough to quit. He was hooked – enslaved by the habit, just as much as any dope addict or cigarette smoker! 


To help compulsive gamblers, an organization called Gamblers Anonymous was created about fifty years ago, modeled after Alcoholics Anonymous.  In chapters in 80 cities across the country, regular groups of compulsive gamblers meet and try to help each other and encourage each other through group therapy.  Gamblers Anonymous charges no fees. One third of the applicants have been through the mill emotionally, divorced, and most of the others face it, many with neglected and hostile children, and many others face prosecution. Their lives have been wrecked by the compulsive urge to gamble.


The withdrawal pains from gambling can be just as bad as an alcoholic abruptly abstaining from alcohol. Fighting off the temptation to make one more bet can be as hard as conquering the urge to have just one more drink. 


Gambling Addiction Can Be Overcome


How can a compulsive gambler overcome his or her compulsion?  (Many of them are women – it can strike all ages, sexes, races, and income groups!)


The founder of Gamblers Anonymous declared: “A compulsive gambler must work out his reformation the hard way – strictly through his own efforts.” He added, “If things are made easy for him, he’ll go right back to the horse tracks and the gambling tables.” (Saturday Evening Post, May 26, 1962).


Gamblers Anonymous, like Alcoholics Anonymous, has helped many people conquer the mystique of gambling and restored them to normal lives.  The best thing about their “12 step program” is that it works!   It is a spiritual/religious approach to the problem.  In this approach and therapy, the gambler –


1.      Admitted they were powerless over gambling, that their lives had become unmanageable.

2.      Came to believe that a Power [God] greater than themselves could restore them to a normal way of thinking and living.

3.      Made a conscious decision to turn their lives and will over to the care of this Power [God], as they understood Him.

4.      Make a searching and fearless moral and financial inventory of their lives.

5.      Admitted to themselves and another human being the exact nature of their wrongs [confessed their shortcomings and problems].

6.      Were entirely ready to have these defects of character removed.

7.      Humbly ASKED God to remove their shortcomings and failures.

8.      Made a list of all persons they had harmed and became willing to make amends to all of them.

9.      Made direct amends to such people whenever possible, except when it would injure them or others.

10.  Continued to take personal inventory, and when wrong, promptly admitted it.

11.  Sought through prayer and meditation to improve their conscious contact with God as they understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for them, and the power to carry that out.

12.  Made an effort to practice these principles in all their affairs, and tried to carry this message to help others with the same problem of compulsive or addictive gambling.


How similar these steps are to what the Bible calls true REPENTANCE!  Read our article on “What Do You Mean, Real Repentance?”


Obviously, like in any other addiction, true, hard, sincere, earnest effort and intense desire to overcome the problem are necessary.  The person afflicted must realize and admit his problem, or he is doomed to suffer the consequences. Once he sees himself in his true light, however, he CAN take positive steps to overcome it.


Sometimes the grip of the addiction may be too strong to master on one’s own strength and resources. If a person is willing to humble himself, or herself, however, and ADMIT THE PROBLEM, then there is hope.  They can cry out to the living GOD of heaven and earth for help with their utmost being.  God can and will give help to the sincere, repentant person.  Gambling obsessions and compulsions CAN BE OVERCOME! But the gambler must come to HATE the sin of gambling, REPENT of it, and then put it totally away from him.


Coming to know the true God is a vital KEY to overcoming any pernicious urge, or human lust, or perverse desire!  Write for our article, “What Is Genuine Repentance?” 


The Great Destroyer


The public today has an attitude of apathy toward the perils of gambling.  They simply won’t believe it!  The promotion by state and local governments, and the glittering advertising, all seem to say it is just “innocent fun,” and millions have become mesmerized by the pied piper’s voice and cadence. 


Society today seems to find “nothing immoral,” or says, “morality doesn’t count.”  Especially since the sexual escapades of America’s former president, William Jefferson Clinton.  Even allegations of rape and womanizing seem to merit nothing but a “ho hum” response.


Says James Dobson, “It is as though the entire culture has forgotten why previous generations considered gambling to be a terrible curse, and why they fought to outlaw it.  But now, it has become just another form of entertainment for fun-loving folks.”


Despite the apathetic, uncaring attitude, however, gambling is a great destroyer and wrecker of families, and potentially, even nations.  It leads to a rosy-eyed, Pollyanna outlook on life, not based on hard facts.  The U.S. Commission that studied gambling found a direct link between problem and pathological gambling and divorce, child abuse, domestic violence, bankruptcy, crime, and suicide.  More than 15 million adults and children meet the criteria for problem and pathological gambling disorders.  That number is greater than the population of New York City!


Gambling is addictive and progressive.  It is especially dangerous to the young.   Eighty-five percent of young people are already gambling on everything from card games to sports events, from casinos to lotteries.   Even worse, more than 15% of them are already problem or pathological gamblers! 


Says James Dobson, “The very appeal of gambling belies the claims of the gambling industry,  which is sown in greed and the exploitation of human weakness.  It robs from the poor and exploits the most vulnerable.  It undermines the ethic of work, sacrifice and personal responsibility    . . . And if you scratch beneath the veneer of gambling-induced prosperity, the pain, despair, and  hopelessness of problem and pathological gamblers will be recognized as a stark tragedy.”


“You Shall Not COVET”


            What does the Word of God have to say about gambling?


It should be plain to see that gambling is a terrible CURSE! It is closely attended by gangsterism and is connected with vice, prostitution, theft, narcotics, and murder. The gangster element has taken over or is closely involved in most gambling establishments! But gambling even by itself is a personal plague.  It preys like a vulture on the weak and young, the old and depressed. 


Take a good, honest, long look at gambling. Is it right for human beings to prey on the lusts and greedy appetites of others? Is it right to throw money down a rat-hole, for no constructive pur- pose, merely to be “entertained” in doing so?  Is it right to try to get “something for nothing”?


To win a prize by definite SKILL is one thing.  But spend hours and hours playing games of pure ‘chance,’ is a tragic mistake.  To risk one’s time, money, and even hours of one’s life “playing the odds” in gambling is a terrible waste of true human potential.  Gambling can easily become abominable and purely selfish and destructive behavior.  


The Law of God thunders, “THOU SHALT NOT COVET 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 is your neighbor’s” (Exodus 20:17).   The Hebrew word for “covet” is chamad, and means “to delight in, desire, covet, lust.”  Those who engage in gambling routinely are clearly seeking something wealth without having to work for it.  What else is gambling but sheer covetousness? 


HUMAN NATURE IS GREEDY! Jeremiah the prophet wrote, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?” (Jer.17:9).  It is avaricious, lustful, and selfish.


Inveterate gamblers are the slaves of their human nature. They seek something for nothing. They want to get rich quick, without working for it. They are totally self-centered and selfish – nobody else matters. 


Even gambling as an occasional pastime, is a waste of time and effort.  Why seek that kind of pleasure when there are much more noble, creative ways to use one’s leisure time – like reading good books, enjoying good music, engaging in wholesome activities? 


Hundreds of thousands of men and women play the lotteries, hoping they will be one of the lucky ones who win millions of dollars, despite the fact that the odds are so bad it really amounts to just throwing money away for millions of people!  Various publications like Publisher’s Clearing House also take advantage of widows and elderly with their tactics.  They say anyone can play their lottery, and win millions of dollars, and don’t have to buy a thing.  But many people DO think it increases their odds if they purchase a subscription to a magazine, so once again they throw away their money for junk, or things they don’t really want or need, in order to “play the game.” 


Gambling institutions, and even state governments, take advantage of the WEAKNESSES of human character, in order to seduce people to part with their money.  What a terrible WASTE! 


The Bible on Gambling


Solomon wrote, “He that is slothful is brother to him who is a great waster” (Prov.18:9, KJV).  The word “waster” can also be translated “DESTROYER” (see same verse, NKJV).  Gambling is a great waste of time and energy, and exceedingly destructive of human character. 


Gambling does not show genuine outgoing concern for other people. The prime motive of the gambler is to GET! He’s not interested in serving, helping, assisting others, or giving of his time and energy.  He’s not interested in dedicating his life to helping serve mankind.   He just  wants to GET, get, GET, while his luck holds out, while he’s “hot.” And the large gambling casinos are there to take his money, spurring him on with free gifts, drinks, entertainment, and rooms. 


Betting and gambling are diametrically opposite to the way of loving your neighbor.  Yet God says, “You shall love your neighbor as you love yourself” (Leviticus 19:18; Matt.22:39).


Gamblers are selfish and self-centered and only interested in the pursuit of pleasure.  The whole gambling atmosphere is one of evil, ungodly, Satanic impulsive, sensuous LUST!


God put us on this earth to LEARN the way of righteousness, loving our neighbor, serving others, and ultimately to develop godly, wholesome, righteous CHARACTER, which involves denying yourself, overcoming temptations, suppressing human lusts of the eyes, lusts of the flesh, and human pride.  God says, “Do not love the world or the things in the world.  The love of the Father is not in those who love the world; for all that is in the world – the desire of the flesh, the desire of the eyes, the pride in RICHES – comes not from the Father but from the world.  And the world and its desire are passing away, but those who do the will of God live forever” (I John 2:15-17, NRSV). 


Work Versus Gambling


God wants us to learn to work for a living.  He declares, “Six days shall you LABOR and do all your WORK” (Exodus 20:9).  Solomon wrote, “Those who are greedy for unjust gain make trouble for their households” (Proverbs 15:27).  That describes the gambler!


Solomon also wrote:  “One who is slack in work is close kin to a vandal” (Prov.18:9).  He declared, “Laziness brings on deep sleep; and idle person will suffer hunger.  Those who keep the commandment will live; those who are heedless of their ways will die” (Prov.19:15-16).


God told Adam, “By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread until you return to the ground” (Gen.3:19).  Work is GOOD for you!  Our bodies need exercise, in order to remain healthy.  Inactivity, sitting around, is a good way to destroy your health.  Solomon declared, “There is nothing better for mortals than to eat and drink, and FIND ENJOYMENT IN THEIR TOIL [WORK].  This also, I saw, was from the hand of God; for apart from him who can eat or who can have enjoyment?  For to the one who pleases him God gives wisdom and knowledge and joy; but to the sinner he gives the work of gathering and heaping, only to give to the one who pleases God” (Ecclesiastes 2:24-26).


This principal is so important that God had it recorded twice!  Solomon also said:  “What gain have the workers from their toil?  I have seen the business that God has given to everyone to be busy with.  He has made everything suitable for its time; moreover he has put a sense of past and future into their minds, yet they cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end.  I know that there is nothing better for them [mortals] than to be happy and enjoy themselves as long as they live; moreover, it is God’s gift that all should eat and drink and TAKE PLEASURE IN ALL THEIR TOIL” (Eccl.3:9-13).


In fact, this principle is repeated THREE times, for emphasis!  Solomon went on, “This is what I have seen to be good:  it is fitting to eat and drink and FIND ENJOYMENT in all the TOIL with which one toils under the sun the few days of the life God gives us; for that is our lot” (Ecc.5:18).


Every honest job or occupation involves a certain amount of constructive labor and mental effort.  It strengthens the body and the mind, and is conducive to good health.  Constructive, productive work is also character building.  It helps to mold and shape strong, excellent CHARACTER traits. 


But gambling, on the other hand, is one of the ways of the world, the way of Satan the devil, of bringing others into slavery to their impulses and lusts.   It may seem all right, to men and women addicted to the “fun” and superficial “glamour,” but it is a way of death which Solomon wrote about.  Solomon declared, “There is a way that SEEMETH right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of DEATH” (Proverbs 14:12).  


God knew, long ago, where the gambling fever would lead. He foresaw that gambling would open the doors to a multitude of other evils and vices. God knew that gambling would lead to broken homes, compulsive gambling, neglected children, and a terrible waste of human endeavor and potential. He knew it would lead to a false sense of values; a glittering, tinsel-wrapped package of no durable value; to aimlessness, lack of character, destitution; with the side effects of sexual lewdness, adultery, fornication, drunkenness, stealing, hoodlumism, gangsterism, and murder !


That’s why any sensible and wise person will stay away from gambling – avoid the gaming deuce and traps which have proliferated in this mad modern world! Don’t be a “sucker —don’t be Satan’s “pigeon” – DON’T GAMBLE!  


The apostle Paul wrote, “FLEE youthful lusts; but pursue righteousness, faith, love, peace with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart”! (II Tim.2:22).   Rather, “be a vessel for honor, sanctified [set apart] and useful for the Master, prepared for every good work” (v.21).


Paul also declared, “But those who desire to be RICH fall into temptation and a SNARE, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition.  For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.  But you, O man of God, FLEE these things and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith,  love, patience, gentleness.  Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life” (I Tim.6:9-12).


Paul said further, “Therefore, my beloved, FLEE IDOLATRY” (I Cor.10:14.  And what is “idolatry”?  “Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth:  fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and COVETOUSNESS WHICH IS IDOLATRY” (Col.3:5). 


FLEE from the lusts of the flesh!  FLEE from the spirit of gambling!