I admit it. I’ve been to a few casinos in my lifetime, but never for very long and I’ve never spent more than about $25 when I’m there. I’m what serious gamblers refer to as a “nobody.”
Despite the many “nobodies” in the world, the gambling industry is experiencing “impressive growth” worldwide. In 2017, gambling profits worldwide were estimated at over $400 billion annually (US Dollars), with the USA and China at the top of gambling spending, according to Casino.org. In contrast, it would cost about $265 billion annually to end world hunger and malnutrition – less than three-fourths of all money spent gambling worldwide. (Source: International Food Policy Research Institute, 2018) The contrast is a sobering reflection of our priorities.
For every dollar made by gambling operators worldwide there is also a corresponding monetary loss to the individuals who gamble –affecting not only the gambler, but also their families, friends, and communities. Gambling losses per country in 2016, reported in billions of US Dollars, include:
(Graph of 2016 Gambling Losses per Country by Casino.org)
Las Vegas, Nevada is America’s epicenter for gambling. Referred to as “Sin City,” Las Vegas has built its economy on gambling and the industries that support it. “The average American adult spends around $261 (US Dollars) on casinos and lottery tickets per year,” as reported in 2019 by Grant Suneson, USA Today. Suneson continues, “This amount, however, is not evenly spread out.” In Nevada, nearly $5,000 per adult-resident flowed into the state from gambling in a single year. Conversely, Hawaii and Utah, which prohibit gambling on moral grounds, report $0 gambling revenue.
Americans are not the only people that gamble. It came as a surprise to me that Americans are not the world’s “biggest” losers from a gambling standpoint. Rankings by H2 Gambling Capital take into account the losses in a year on all kinds of gambling (including poker, slot machines, horse racing, and casinos) and divide it by the adult population of each country. Under that analysis, Australia, Singapore, Ireland, Canada, Finland, Italy, Hong Kong, Norway, Greece, and Spain, are examples of populations who lose more money gambling each year — on a per person basis — than Americans. (Source: World Atlas, “Countries That Gamble the Most,” updated 2017) Also, while Las Vegas may be famous as a gambling haven, it ranks second in the world. The world’s top gambling cities in 2018 ranked as follows: (1) Macau, China, (2) Las Vegas, Nevada, USA, (3) Marina Bay, Singapore, (4) Atlantic City, New Jersey, USA, (5) Sydney, Australia, (6) London, England, (7) Monte Carlo, Monaco, (8) Nassau, Bahamas, (9) Paris, France, and (10) San Jose, Costa Rica. Of course, there are some countries that ban gambling, particularly Islamic countries. As of 2019, countries that forbid gambling include United Arab Emirates, Brunei, Cambodia (the ban only applies to its citizens), North Korea (the ban only applies to its citizens), and Qatar. (Source: Lawyer Monthly, April 7, 2019)
Although gambling may seem like “innocent fun” or “harmless entertainment” initially, gambling caters to sin and fosters greed — and the love of money. Gambling can be addictive and have harmful consequences from both a material and spiritual standpoint. For those participants whose goal is to make a lot of money quickly, the Bible warns that, “Trying to get rich quick is evil and leads to poverty.” (Proverbs 28:22) The poverty that stems from gambling to which the Bible refers is both poverty in a worldly sense and poverty in a spiritual sense.
It’s not only gambling that puts people at risk, but also the consequences of doing so. When we gamble, we support a gaming culture that promotes and exploits greed — glorifying the love of money over the love of God. Gambling is a self-described environment where “money is king” (in other words, where money is god): “But 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. For the love of money is the first step towards all kinds of sin. Some people have even turned away from God because of their love for it, and as a result have pierced themselves with many sorrows.” 1 Timothy 6:9-10
It has been argued that the main appeal of gambling rests not on greed, but on the belief that wealth equates with happiness. The Bible rejects this belief and warns: “He who loves money shall never have enough. The foolishness of thinking that wealth brings happiness! The more you have, the more you spend, right up to the limits of your income. So what is the advantage of wealth – except to watch it as it runs through your fingers!” Ecclesiastes 5:10-11
When talking about the love of money, Jesus gives a stern warning: “For neither you nor anyone else can serve two masters. You will hate one and show loyalty to the other, or else the other way around – you will be enthusiastic about one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.” Luke 16:13
In reality, the stakes are high for gamblers (as with anyone who puts the love of money before their obligations to God and His Son). Depending on the circumstances, they may be gambling with eternal life.
Photo Copyright: Sergey Nazarov