Gambling Ethics and Morality: Is Gambling a Sin?

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Is Gambling a Sin in Christianity?

According to the major religions of the world, is gambling a sin? Today, we look at what religious belief systems like Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism, and Islam have to say about the morality and ethics of gambling.

Is gambling condoned or banned in major religions? Do spiritual leaders see nuance and allow moderate gambling, or do they see a strict ban as the only way? As always, it’s complicated. We explore each of the major religions’ views on gambling today.

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Is Gambling a Sin in The Bible?

While gambling is considered a sin in many religions, not everyone knows how gambling is perceived in Christianity. That is because Christianity has many sects and denominations, and gambling is accepted in many countries where Christianity proliferates.

Do Catholics consider gambling a sin? Do protestants believe gambling is a sin?

While gambling has existed since the dawn of mankind, most modern forms of gambling have only existed in the past few generations or past few centuries at the most. For that reason, The Bible does not list gambling as a form of temptation to be resisted. That does not mean The Bible is silent on the matter.

Gambling is about taking risks in a game of chance for a reward, so many Christians would argue that it involves the sin of greed. In that way, it could be considered a sin that teaches gamblers to never be satisfied.

In 1 Timothy 6:9-10, the Apostle Paul can be seen to urge Timothy to avoid the temptation of gambling:

“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 the root of all kinds of evil. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.”

It’s a quote that could apply to sin, but it could apply to greed in business, crass capitalism, or even capitalism itself. Or one could see it as a simple admonishment to be moderate in one’s pursuit of money.

As for gambling teaching gamblers to never be satisfied, contradicts the advice of gambling experts who promote bankroll management. In bankroll management, players are told to walk away after reaching a win goal or a loss limit — to end gaming sessions before being carried away with greed or a desire to retrieve lost money.

Do Catholics Consider Gambling a Sin?

As for Catholics, the Catholic Church actually has a patron saint of gambling. That would be San Cayetano (Saint Cajetan), the patron saint of gamblers, bankers, and the unemployed. He lived a life without possessions.

San Cayetano was a member of the Congregation of Clerics Regular of the Divine Providence (often called “Theatines”), who could not solicit alms. In time, Saint Cajetan opened a bank for the poor. He also opened two hospitals for the poor.

Thus, Cayetano gave solace to the poor, the unemployed, and presumably those who lost their money while gambling. Some smart Alec would probably say it’s no coincidence that the patron saint of gamblers is the patron saint of the unemployed. Though one could also say it is no coincidence that the patron saint of gamblers is also the patron saint of bankers.

How Does Buddhism View Gambling?

Siddhartha Gautama, the Indian princeling who gave away his fortune to become the Buddha (“the awakened”), founded Buddhism in Nepal in either the 6th Century B.C.E. or the 5th Century B.C.E. The Buddha led a life of asceticism and meditation, eventually gaining enlightenment. Buddha taught a Middle Way between the indulgence of the senses and extreme asceticism by teaching the Noble Eightfold Path.

Buddha sought to free his students from craving, ignorance, and suffering. In doing so, he taught restraint, mindfulness, and kindness towards others.

One might think this would lead one to teach against gambling, but gambling was an accepted practice in Nepal during the Buddha’s life. Sacred Buddhist scripture even suggests acceptance for gambling, so gambling is not seen as a sin in Buddhism.

At the same time, Buddhism teaches the Eightfold Path and Four Noble Truths, which suggest that desire and ignorance are the roots of human suffering. Desire in Buddhism is seen as a craving for material goods, pleasure, and immortality. Since these desires can never be satisfied, desire can only bring suffering.

Again, Buddhism seems to warn against excessive gambling, but not gambling in any form. Gambling includes casual gamblers, recreational gamblers, and social gamblers. These are not motivated by pure desire, so they do not lead to suffering. Of course, compulsive and habitual gamblers exist, which certainly can lead to suffering.

How Does Hinduism View Gambling?

Hinduism, a major faith that dates as far back as 1000 BCE, is practiced by roughly 80% of India’s 1.4 billion citizens. The Hindu faith centers on the concept of spirituality (the atman or “soul). Every person has a soul, and every soul is part of a supreme soul. Hinduism teaches a belief in samsara (the continuous cycle of life, death, and reincarnation) and in karma — a universal law of cause and effect.

Hindus are a tolerant religion that views gambling as a permitted activity, even during the festivities of Diwali.  Still, gambling is viewed as against karma. Once again, gambling is allowed as entertainment. If it is based only on money, then gambling brings negative karma.

How Does Judaism View Gambling?

Judaism does not have an explicit prohibition against gambling. Jewish law banned gambling, though. For instance, the Mishnah states that those who gamble cannot serve as witnesses.

Also, the Talmud states that rabbis traditionally condemned gambling. They see it as a risky financial activity that can be addictive, thus leading men to abandon their responsibilities in life. The Talmud thus sees gambling as a sin, because the loser was not expecting to lose.

The loser of a gamble thus has his money taken from him, so rabbis often saw it almost like stealing.

How Does Islam View Gambling?

Islam strictly forbids gambling. The Quran forbids all Muslims from engaging in gambling, stating:

“Satan’s plan is to excite enmity and hatred between you, with intoxicants and gambling, and hinder you from the remembrance of Allah, and prayer. Will you not then abstain?”

Thus, Muslims should not try to earn money through luck or “risk”. Islam sees gambling as a benefit to the minority while targeting those who cannot afford to lose. Furthermore, it sees gambling as deceiving and unlawful.

Of course, a few casinos exist in countries that have a Muslim-majority population. In these countries, the casinos are there to attract non-Muslims.

Is Safe and Responsible Gaming a Sin?

Not every religion agrees on whether gambling is a sin. Both Islam and Judaism take a firm stance against gambling, while Christianity, Buddhism, and Hinduism warn against immoderate gambling. In the three later cases, their spiritual leaders warn people to curb their gambling activities and restrict them to recreational activity.

It’s no surprise that so many governments and cultures are influenced by these religions, therefore, creating legal systems which encourage responsible gambling. In Western cultures where gambling is legalized, they create tools for self-exclusion and responsible gambling hotlines to help those who cannot resist the temptation of compulsive gambling.

In the end, we encourage readers who are casual gamblers, recreational gamblers, and social gamblers to see their hobby as a form of entertainment. Similarly, we encourage those who deal with problem gambling to get help. Many organizations provide counseling for addictive gamblers and their loved ones.

Most of our readers cultures do not view gambling as a sin, and those dealing with problem gambling should not be shamed. Instead, view it as an activity that can be tempered and tamed if one takes steps to moderate it.

Gambling and Sin FAQ

Is gambling a Sin in The Bible?

No passage of The Bible directly says gambling is a sin. The 1st Epistle to Timothy is often seen as an admonishment against gambling, but it’s as much against risking one’s money or immoderate greed as it is against gambling.

Why is gambling a sin?

That depends on the religion. Islam bans gambling because people should not earn money through luck, and because gambling might target those who cannot afford to lose. Judaism sees it as a risky financial activity that leads a person away from responsibility.

At the same time, many sects of Christianity are more forgiving towards gambling, and Catholicism even has a Patron Saint of Gamblers (Catejan). Buddhism and Hinduism are more neutral on gambling, though Hinduism sees immoderate gambling as incurring bad karma.

Is gambling a sin in Christianity?

It’s a complicated question. No doubt, many Christians view gambling as a sin. When the Roman soldiers cast lots for Jesus’s belongings in The Gospels, it’s seen as a crass and immoral act.

Yet God and Satan appear to engage in a form of betting in The Book of Job. A Christian would say it’s not a bet if God knew the outcome beforehand, and many gamblers would agree. Often, Christianity takes a stance against gambling for the same reason it takes a stance against usury or bad business — it leads to greed.

Is betting a sin for a Catholic?

Many Catholics have seen betting as a sin. Still, Catholicism has a patron saint for gamblers. If betting is a sin biblically, then it’s a sin that one can gain absolution and solace for doing it.

Is lottery gambling a sin?

If other forms of gambling are a sin in a culture or religion, then lottery gambling would be seen as a sin, too. The house edge on lottery betting is higher than any other form of gambling (casinos, sportsbooks, poker). Also, one would expect the huge progressive lottery jackpots to be more of a spur to the sin of greed than betting on a 3:2 payout in blackjack.

Lottery gambling is seen as more socially acceptable for several reasons. One, lottery betting is seen as a small amount ($1 to $3), so it’s not likely to bankrupt the gambler. Two, lottery drawings take place twice a week in the case of the Powerball or Mega Millions lottery, so once again it’s not likely to put a gambler in financial ruin.

Three, state lotteries are licensed and regulated by state governments and multistate associations. It’s given the legitimacy of government sanction. Four, a state lottery often sets aside funds for education or a scholarship, such as the HOPE Scholarship Fund in Georgia. Thus, lotteries are seen as collecting money for a good cause (even if many state lottery revenues go into the General Fund).

Is bingo gambling a sin?

Bingo gambling is also seen as more socially acceptable, often for the same reason that lottery gambling is. Charitable bingo halls operate in most U.S. states, allowing charity organizations to collect funds for good causes. Licensed charitable organizations that represent police, firefighters, military veterans, teachers’ groups, civic improvement groups, and medical foundations all host bingo nights.

Even religious organizations are known to host bingo nights and raffles to fund their charity activities. If your local religious charity has a bingo night, how much of a sin can bingo betting be? In some US states, bingo halls even allow underage children to buy bingo cards, as long as they are supervised by an adult guardian.

In those various ways, if gambling is a sin in your belief system, then charitable bingo gambling is less of a sin than most forms of gambling.

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