Why Gambling Is Objectionable


Excerpts from a letter by Dr. D. McCormack Smyth

Department of Social Science,
York University
April, 1994


Christianity, Judaism and Islam all oppose gambling in any form because it contributes to the idolization of money as the universal saviour. All Christians, Jews and Muslims who contribute directly or indirectly to the promotion of gambling contribute to the worship of money rather than God. Such promotion is contrary to the primary principle on which Christianity, Judaism and Islam are based, namely that God alone is to be worshipped.


It is morally wrong for an individual to seek to profit at the expense of his fellow citizens. That is precisely what is involved in the gambling business whatever form it takes. Those who buy lottery tickets consciously or unconsciously hope to win at the expense of their fellow citizens. Such conscious or unconscious hope should be regarded as fundamentally immoral in all societies committed to the well being of individuals and communities.


Those who are committed to democratic principles are dedicated to the strengthening of the political bases for the liberty of individuals and the development of free societies. Such societies are described as “free” because, in them, the weaknesses of citizens are not exploited by those who govern. Government lotteries, however, are consciously designed to exploit a particular weakness of human beings namely their tendency to be greedy.

The conscious exploitation of human greed by governments is a betrayal of a fundamental democratic principle that the state should not exploit the weaknesses of its citizens. When a democratic state does this it denies a fundamental principle of a democratic state.


It is not possible in the long run to maintain social communities when the state consciously promotes the idea that it is right and proper for the individual citizens to seek to profit through the misfortunes of their fellow citizens. In the Western world it has been widely agreed that we should be “our brother’s keeper”. Through state controlled gambling schemes – state operated lotteries, casinos, etc. – there is widening acceptance, albeit usually unconscious, that instead of being “our brother’s keeper” it is in order for us to be “our brother’s exploiter.”

Of course, we rarely speak of government lotteries and casinos as the means whereby citizens in democratic societies become “our brother’s exploiters”. But that is precisely what such government agencies are.