Are Betting and Gambling National Evils?
Moralists denounce betting and gambling as immoral. Yet it is not easy to show in what way they are wrong. Surely there is no sin in playing cards for moderate stakes, or having a few rupees on a horse now and then. Why, a great deal of business speculation in stocks and shares is only a form of gambling. It is true that in a bet, one of the parties must lose his money; but the gain of the other is not robbery or cheating, for both parties agreed together to run the risk. If two men agree to risk their money on a bet or a game of chance, that is their own business, no one has a right to interfere with them.
This is all true; yet there is a danger in gambling, both to the gambler himself and to the community at large. If only rich people that can afford to lose gambled, and they gambled only in moderation, not much harm would be done. But poor men, who cannot afford to lose, should avoid betting; and so should all who are tempted to gamble or bet to excess. Gambling is like drink; many can drink in moderation., but many cannot.
A tree is judged by its fruits. What are the fruits of excessive betting and gambling ?
First, they discourage steady habits of industry. They delude men with hopes of getting rich quickly and easily, without effort and toil. To the gambler, “the trivial round, the daily task” seem dull and humdrum. An unhealthy fever of excitement prevents him from settling down to hard, regular work. Why should he, when a stroke of luck may make him rich in a moment?
Secondly, with some people, gambling becomes a habit, as strong and as difficult to break as the craving for strong drink. The gambling habit gets such a strangle-hold on some people that it ends in ruining ‘them, body and soul. Gambling has broken up many happy homes, and brought down many to poverty and misery.
Finally, betting and gambling often lead to crime. A poor clerk is tempted to “borrow” some of his master’s money, to bet with, meaning to put it back again out of his winnings. But he loses his bets. The theft is found out, and he ends in prison. Theft, embezzlement, and even crimes of violence, have sprung from betting and gambling.
Judged by their fruits, then, betting and gambling are wrong. “The corrupt tree bring the forth evil fruit.” And the amount of betting among the working classes on football pools, dog racing, and almost anything, certainly amounts to a great social evil.