Most players can walk away at game’s end, but around 350,000 suffer from a gambling addiction. The world’s religions offer different viewpoints on gambling activities that provide entertainment for some but a threat to social and financial well-being for others.
Gambling in Islam
Holy writings guide all text-based religions, but Muslims believe that the Koran is uniquely different from others. The faithful accept the words as God’s revelation of an eternal realm, and their meaning is immutable. Scholars at a conference hosted by the University of London debated the precise sense of the text, but believers are disinclined to do so.
Muslims learn at an early age that the angel Gabriel revealed the Koran to Muhammad over 23 years between 609 C.E. and his death in 632. Maintaining strict observance of the sacrosanct text leaves no room for interpretation by members of the faith. The Koran explicitly forbids gambling in Islam.
- “Satan’s plan is (but) to excite enmity and hatred between you, with intoxicants and gambling, and hinder you from the remembrance of Allah, and from prayer: will ye not then abstain?”
- “They ask you about intoxicants and games of chances. Say: in both of them there is a great sin…”
Gambling in Hinduism
History presumes that Hinduism was formed in India around 2000 B.C., but the founder is unknown. Followers believe that its approach to life has always existed. With more adherents than any other religion except Christianity and Islam, the Hindu faith is most populous in Asian countries. A collection of sacred readings in the Santana Dharma conveys the “never beginning nor ending way ” philosophy of the religion. Other scriptures reflect conflicting guidance about gambling in Hinduism with disapproval as well as tolerance. The Manu Smriti provides a general prohibition against the practice.
- “Drinking, gambling, women (not lawfully wedded wives) and hunting, in that order, he should know to be the very worst four in the group of (vices) born of desire.”
Guidance for the Hare Krishna cult explicitly prohibits gambling.
- “Truthfulness is destroyed by gambling. This is quite obvious. Gambling turns a person into a liar, a cheat. Gambling invariably puts one into anxiety and fuels greed, envy, and anger.”
Gambling in Buddhism
Gautama Siddhartha, the Buddha, was born to a king in modern day Nepal in 563 B.C. Gambling was an accepted activity in his father’s ancient kingdom and one that was widely practiced. The Tripiṭaka contains the holy scriptures of Buddhism, and the English translations fill 40 volumes to address topics that include gambling in Buddhism. Known as “the enlightened one”, the Buddha expressed disapproval of gambling as an unskilled activity.
- “There are these six dangers of being addicted to gambling. In winning, one begets hatred; in losing, one mourns the loss of one’s wealth; one’s word is not accepted in court; one is avoided by both friends and officials; one is not sought after for marriage because people say a gambler cannot support a wife.”
Gambling in Judaism
Authors of the Old Testament composed its 39 books of holy scriptures over centuries that ranged from approximately 1657 B.C. to around 443 B.C. Stories of prophetic oracles, instructions for priests, royal court proceedings, historical records and teachings for the faithful. The Torah, the first five books contain Judaism’s most important writings, and Jews generally believe that Moses wrote the words of God in them. The second book, Exodus, contains the 10 Commandments, and the last one equates gambling in Judaism with coveting.
- “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor anything that is thy neighbor’s.”
Gambling in Christianity
The New Testament contains 27 books that describe a new faith after the birth of Jesus. Without specifically prohibiting gambling in Christianity, the faith cautions against practices that violate biblical principles such as greed, materialism and covetousness.
- “No one should seek their own good, but the good of others.”
- “A greedy man brings trouble to his family.”
- “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.”
- “Everything that is not of faith is sin.”
- “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.”
- “But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.”
Christianity observes the 10 Commandments as essential religious guidance, including the prohibition against coveting.
Gambling in Maoism
The thoughts of Chinese leader Mao Zedong attracted followers to adopt his political theories. Maoism taught that the peasant class possessed the essential qualities necessary for revolution. Mao’s theory purported that their capabilities made them more likely to stage a revolution and to establish socialism in China than the workers in the industrial sectors. He was the founder of the People’s Republic of China and chairman from 1949 until his death in 1976.
Maoism is a utopian concept that offers justice and equality for everyone, but its ideals were difficult for followers to uphold. Mao outlawed gambling in 1949 when he assumed power in the Communist Party. The philosophy rejects gambling in Maoism for these reasons:
- wasting time
- encouraging corruption
- supporting the “Four Olds”: habits, ideas, culture and customs
The Criminal Law of the People’s Republic of China states the consequences of gambling:
- “Whoever, for the purpose of profit, gathers people to engage in gambling, runs a gambling house or makes gambling his profession shall be sentenced to fixed-term imprisonment of not more than three years, criminal detention or public surveillance and shall also be fined.”