It’s amazing how gambling slang has worked itself into our everyday vocabulary, isn’t it? For example, we often say to each other, “I bet you won’t” or “I bet you will.” We call a likely occurrence a “lock” or a “sure thing” while we refer to an unlikely occurrence as a “long shot.” We “take a chance,” “take a gamble,” and “play a hunch.” When someone hurts us, we say that we “took a hit” and then we look to “get even.” Given the enormous size of the gambling industry, it’s not surprising that these terms have become so commonplace today.
What is surprising is the increasing growth of gambling among teens. For example, the Seattle Times reported that New Jersey casinos had to remove 26,000 teen gamblers in one year and turned away an additional 136,000 who were trying to enter. (1) A Minnesota survey reported that 80% of teen guys admitted gambling at least once during the previous year and 20% of them gambled weekly. (2)
So how widespread is teen gambling? Well, a survey of Connecticut high school students asked the following gambling related questions…
Question: “Have you gambled on school grounds?” 42% answered yes
Question: “Have you gambled with more than $50 in one day?” 15% answered yes
Question: “Have you cut classes or been absent in order to gamble?” 24% answered yes
Question: “Have you felt you’d like to stop gambling but didn’t think you could?” 4% answered yes (3)
Now some people don’t consider this to be much of a problem at all. After all, many people see betting on card games, horse races, casino gambling, and sports pools as harmless amusements and a nice break from the stresses of school and life. So what’s the problem? Well, consider this…
- There are currently 8-13 million compulsive gamblers in the United States (3)
- The rate of “problem gambling” for youths ranges from 9 to 14%. An additional 4 to 7% of youths display compulsive gambling behaviors. (4)
- The percentage of American teenagers with a “serious” gambling problem is almost twice as large as the adult rate. (2)
Statistics like these have led one commentator to say, “About one in five of all who gamble will become a problem gambler. Would you board a train if you knew it had a 20 percent chance of crashing?” (6)
And since we’re on the subject of gambling, let’s go ahead and talk about some real long shots. Before you start checking out that point spread, take a look at the odds connected with these common forms of wagering…
Dice The odds are 216 to 1 against you each time you throw 3 dice.
Football Pools The odds of hitting on five games in a football pool is 31 to 1; for 12 games, it’s 316 to 1; for 15 games, it’s 32,767 to 1.
Lotteries The odds of winning the typical state lottery is 1 in several million, depending on the lottery. You are five times more likely to be eaten by a shark than you are to win a lottery jackpot.
Slot Machines You can expect to lose 25% of all the money you invest in a slot machine over the long run. No wonder they’re called “one-armed bandits”
Numbers The odds of hitting your number in a three-number game are 1000 to 1. In a six number game, your odds of winning are 10,000,000 to 1 (6)
So you can see that gambling (if you’ll pardon the pun) is a bad bet statistically. Some people try to explain this away by saying things like, “my number is bound to come up” or “I’m overdue for a big payoff” or “I’ll quit when I’m ahead.” Unfortunately, the problem is that many gamblers never get ahead in the first place. This is called “chasing after your losses” and it’s not unusual to find people gambling away large amounts of money in an attempt to win back a small amount that they lost in some earlier wager.
The Bible gives us some understanding of why gambling and it’s associated behaviors are such a problem:
Gambling Encourages A “Get Rich Quick” Philosophy
Some people believe that one big gambling payoff will allow them to live in luxury for the rest of their lives. These people hope to hit on the one big “score” that will enable them to never have to work again. But this hope is really a false hope…
“Quick wealth is not a blessing in the end” (Proverbs 20:21).
“Wealth from gambling (or dishonesty) quickly disappears; wealth from hard work grows” (Proverbs 13:11).
“For you well know that you ought to follow our example: you never saw us loafing… Even while we were still there with you, we gave you this rule: ‘He who does not work shall not eat'” (2 Thessalonians 3:7,10).
Gambling Can Encourage An Attitude Of Greed
No matter how much money someone wins, there’s always the possibility of an even greater payoff- if the bettor is only willing to wager some more. But the greedy pursuit of more money and a bigger payoff is something that certainly won’t make you happy in the long run…
“He who loves money shall never have enough. The foolishness of thinking that wealth brings happiness!” (Ecclesiastes 5:10).
“…a greedy person is really an idol worshiper– he loves and worships the good things of this life more than God” (Ephesians 5:5).
“…people who long to be rich soon begin to do all kinds of wrong things to get money, things that hurt them and make them evil-minded and finally send them to hell itself” (1 Timothy 6:9).
Gambling Takes The Focus off God As Our Provider
Most gamblers must depend on “luck” and chance for success rather than depending on God to be their Provider. But why depend on these things when God’s Word shows us a better way?…
“The Lord’s blessing is our greatest wealth. All our work adds nothing to it!” (Proverbs 10:22).
“…God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work” (2 Corinthians 9:8 NIV).
“And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19 NIV).
Don’t try to kid yourself by saying that you only gamble occasionally or in small amounts- no compulsive gambler ever started gambling with the goal of someday becoming a compulsive gambler. There are better ways to handle the money that God has given you. Gambling is a bad bet.
(1) Seattle Times, Teens Vulnerable to Betting Addiction Sunday March 29, 1998
(2) Reuters, Youth Gambling On Rise In U.S., Canada Saturday August 15 1998
(3) Source: Teenage Gambling http://www.ctclearinghouse.org/fteengb.htm
(4) Salt Lake Tribune, Compulsive Gamblers Hardest Hit Wednesday, May 20, 1998
(5) Adolescent Gambling Focus on the Family Research Paper
(6) Quote and statistical odds taken from Gambling: A Bad Bet Dr. Norman Geisler