What do you think of the trend of people spending their time gambling in the casinos? This seems to be their main form of entertainment. I am losing my friends to the casinos. — A Losing Hand
DEAR A LOSING HAND:
Poker legend, V.P. Pappy said, “If you ain’t just a little scared when you enter a casino, you are either very rich or you haven’t studied the games enough.” This quote will certainly give you an inkling of where I stand about gambling.
Gambling is a many-faceted activity. It can be defined as staking money or other valuable items on the outcome of a game of chance. Generally we’re talking about high stakes. Those who play for small stakes, just to make the game more interesting, are not truly gambling. Some conditions must exist, however, to make the gambling licit. The stake should belong to the gambler, and he must be free to dispose of it. He must act freely, without fraud in the transaction, and there should be some equality among the parties to make the contract equitable.
Now, the Bible doesn’t forbid gambling outright, but early Christians generally opposed it. Throughout history there were many Church laws and decisions condemning it. Clerics were absolutely forbidden to be present at or participate in games of chance. Today the Catechism of the Catholic Church seems to take a broader outlook.
“Games of chance (card games, etc.) or wagers are not in themselves contrary to justice. They become morally unacceptable when they deprive someone of what is necessary to provide for his needs and those of others. The passion for gambling risks becoming an enslavement. Unfair wagers and cheating at games constitute grave matter, unless the damage inflicted is so slight that the one who suffers it cannot reasonably consider it significant” (CCC, 2413).
Gambling rightfully has a bad reputation, not only because of the environment but also because it can easily become an addiction or an enslavement. The thrill of it creates a passion that is difficult to control. Giving in to it leads to a loss of time and money, and contributes to an idle and useless life. In many countries it rivals drunkenness as a destroyer of lives and of families.
Like all addictions, gambling can be controlled only with great effort and with outside help. Gamblers Anonymous can be of great assistance. However, there are some personal steps that have to be taken in any method of recovery.
Admit that you are a gambler. Then tell this to someone else whom you trust. This will help you recognize that you’re no longer alone in your efforts, and that you can no longer fool yourself.
Avoid going to casinos. Also block gambling sites on your computer.
Solve the deeper issue. Strive to discover the underlying problem that you try to solve by gambling. This will help you deal with the true cause of your addiction. Be advised that this process will be an ongoing one, requiring great effort and perseverance on your part. At this stage daily prayer is indispensable. We cannot go it alone. God always makes his grace available to us, but it’s up to us to accept it.
I suspect that many people who go to casinos do so for the fun of it and stay within their means. It’s a legitimate form of entertainment, in the same way that you might go to a fine restaurant with friends. However, if one is not careful, it wouldn’t take much to acquire the gambling habit. It’s like exposing oneself to the near occasion of sin. It won’t take long before you fall.
This leads me to believe also that some people who frequent casinos are already gamblers and that others are quickly becoming so.
On principle I wouldn’t recommend frequent visits to casinos because of the danger involved. The grave consequences of a gambling addiction dictate that a prudent person should not expose himself to the damaging effects on the gambler as well as on those closest to him or her.
Concerning the friends you’re losing to the casinos, it depends on how close you are to them. Some of them might listen to your reasons for not accompanying them. For the others, try to avail yourself of any opening they might give you to speak about the dangers of gambling. In conclusion, pray for all of them on a daily basis.