All bets are off. Sports gambling is now permissible in all 50 states, according to a recent ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court.
Within days of the ruling, sports leagues of all stripes—from professional to collegiate—seemed to join the bandwagon, welcoming the news with open arms. They also appear to be positioning themselves to financially benefitting from this forthcoming glut of sports gambling.
Once viewed as a bad influence on sports and competition, sports gambling has gained favor in public opinion and is now looked upon as a coming cash cow for states. There are, of course, those who have spoken against sports betting, but Baptists who oppose gambling will find themselves in increasingly thinning ranks.
As recently as last year, Baptists warned against gambling with a “resolution that described gambling as a sin and called for Southern Baptists and other Christians not to participate in it. The resolution urged government at all levels to halt state-sponsored gambling and encouraged pastors and convention leaders to continue to teach Southern Baptists about the deceptiveness of gambling.”
Now that sports betting appears to be here to stay, it would be helpful for us to explain the reasons why we oppose gambling. That way, the world does not understand us to be just stick-in-the-mud people; or worse, disagree with our stance on gambling and then dismiss our greater message of the Gospel.
We oppose gambling for these reasons and more. Gambling:
1) Makes people rely on “luck” instead of the Lord
God made work. Mankind made gambling. The first can be honoring to the Lord. Gambling, though, by its very nature, makes the individual participating embrace chance and good luck over the Lord. Christians of good conscience cannot embrace a practice—be it gambling or something else—that lures people away from the Lord and toward “Lady Luck.”
2) Hurts the poor
Someone once called the lottery a “tax on the poor and people who are bad at math.” The simple point behind this “bumper sticker” message is that gambling tends to prey upon the poor and people who are pinning their financial future on nearly impossible odds. Christians have an obligation to raise up the poor, and a major component of our objection to gambling is with the poor in mind.
3) Creates more losers
With ordinary financial transactions, there can be win-win scenarios. If you mow someone’s lawn and they pay you, the lawn-owner receives a real service, and the lawn worker gets paid. Through gambling, on the contrary, when one party wins, by its very nature, many more people lose. So even the winners make more losers, wherever gambling goes.
4) Leads to addiction and family issues
Paul Chitwood, executive director-treasurer of the Kentucky Baptist Convention, said, “Gambling, legally or illegally, has benefited none of Kentucky’s families or children but has delivered huge payouts in pain.” Chitwood is exactly right. You do not have to be a social sciences expert to know that gambling addiction is real, and that often it is the family members of gambling addicts who pay the highest price.
Legalized and expanded sports betting, along with its social acceptance, will only increase opportunities for these and other problems to manifest. That is why Christians must be prepared to caution against, and to be ready to serve the people, families and communities suffering from its effects.
In the end, gambling is a losing proposition, and the Gospel of Jesus Christ is the only winning one.