Christianity cookies notice

To give you the best possible experience, this site uses cookies. We have published a cookies policy, which you should read to find out more about how we use cookies. By clicking 'Continue' you agree to allow us to collect information through cookies.

Join our newsletter

Subscribe above

Gambling

Christians care about gambling because of the harm it can do, to individuals, families, children and society.

Read time: 4 minutes, 10 seconds

Gambling is a growth industry. The ability to gamble on your phone or laptop has seen online gambling grow from nothing about two decades ago, to an estimated $50 billion a year in global terms. There are many other opportunities to gamble in person, from bookmakers and casinos to bingo and lotteries. We are exposed to more and more gambling advertising, not only on television, but increasingly on social media.

Some people, including some Christians, feel very strongly that gambling is harmful, while for others it is a bit of mild fun. So what’s the story?

There is very little in the Bible about gambling. There are some stories about people “casting lots” to make decisions. In the book of Joshua, land was divided up using lots, as a way of allotting property transparently and fairly. In the New Testament, after the death and resurrection of Jesus, the disciples choose a replacement for Judas by praying that God will act through the casting of lots. This is a long way from the gambling we see around us.

“Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you”.

But the Bible and Christian tradition offer other ways of looking at modern commercial gambling.

For some people gambling is a question of greed. The Bible warns us that the love of money is something that can pull us away from an awareness of God’s love. The writer of the book of Hebrews says: “Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you”.

For others, gambling breaks the bonds between people, setting them against one another. One person can win only because another loses. This is what the poet William Blake described as “the winner’s shout, the loser’s curse”. The Bible gives clear judgement on those who profit from those who are the poorest within society.

For some gambling can be deeply damaging. An estimated 340,000 people in the UK are what is termed “problem gamblers”, and many more are at risk of being harmed by gambling. People can find refuge in gambling because it gives them a high, blots out pain, gives them a sense of self-worth.

Continued below...

Christianity Gambling

The consequences of gambling more money or for longer than you can afford can be severe for your mental or physical health, relationships, or finances. Pushed to extremes, people can end up hiding their gambling debts, lying to family or employers, and sometimes stealing to cover their losses. Tragically each year some people kill themselves because they feel they are trapped by gambling debts.

But the harm that is caused by gambling reaches beyond individuals into the lives of so many more people – families, friends, employers and communities who are impacted by a gambler’s behaviour.

God wants us to have life in all its fullness, to “have life, and have it abundantly”, as Jesus puts it.

Gambling by children and young people can be particularly damaging. Their relationships and mental health can be affected while they are young, but also for life. Most commercial gambling is illegal for under 18s in the UK, though they currently still have access to some slot machines and to the gambling-like activities of online gaming.

Christians care about gambling because of the harm it can do, to individuals, families, children and society. God wants us to have life in all its fullness, to “have life, and have it abundantly”, as Jesus puts it. This means being able to flourish in our relationship with God, and with one another, and the whole of creation. If commercial gambling stops some people flourishing, or diminishes their lives, then we should care.

Christians respond in different ways. Many Christians choose not to gamble at all. Perhaps this is because they feel strongly what the Bible says about the reckless or wasteful use of money. Or perhaps it is in solidarity with people who are suffering because of gambling. Other Christians choose to gamble just small amounts and for good causes.

Christians have been involved in helping people to recover from the grip of gambling addiction. Some churches host Gamblers Anonymous groups. Rev Gordon Moody, a Methodist minister, founded a place for residential treatment. Many Churches have campaigned for changes to legislation to ensure that the gambling industry is well-regulated to protect players from exploitation and harm.



If you think you have a problem with gambling, or you are worried about someone you know, you can call the national gambling helpline free of charge on 0808 8020 133 (24 hours a day).

If you are worried about debt, contact a charity such as Christians Against Poverty (https://capuk.org/) or your local Citizens Advice (https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/).