Gambling

Is gambling immoral ?

  1. immoral = transgressing accepted moral rules, corrupt; unscrupulous or unethical
  2. Gamble = to play a game of chance for money or property; to bet on an uncertain outcome

With those definitions in mind…

Gambling is not immoral by any stretch of the imagination. All the vices of humankind aren’t evil or immoral. How we use them, can be. They all have a built in trap. It is a risk.

If the game is fixed or there is cheating involved, sure that is immoral, but that doesn’t make the gambling itself immoral. It makes the person(s) involved in the fix immoral.

If a person decides to drink all night and lose substantial amounts of money at a casino, that is not immoral. That is a person who made conscious choices to put themselves in a position where they could lose that money.

If a person has other obligations (family, child support, a mortgage, car payment, etc) and chooses to gamble and lose the money that should have went to those obligations, that does not make gambling immoral. That is just a poor decision and a lack of discipline on the individual’s part. You cannot blame the institution of gambling for a persons lack of character.

If a person doesn’t know that a casino has an advantage and will likely take all their money, that does not make the casino or gambling immoral. That makes the person foolish, greedy or totally oblivious.

If a casino tries to lure you in with flashing lights and a free comped meal for gambling at their establishment, that does not make gambling immoral nor does it make the casino immoral in my opinion.

Casinos are in the entertainment business. The only difference between gambling at a casino and paying to go to the movies is that there is a chance for much greater extremes with gambling — extremes in your range of emotions, (potentially) the money you spend, your heart rate. The movies are known. You spend $10.50 per ticket, $9.50 on popcorn and a soda and hope you see a good movie and know it is going to be over in 128 minutes. If you took that same $20 (and were disciplined enough to only spend $20) and put it in a slot machine, that doesn’t make the slot machine immoral. You could win some money, you could lose some (or all) of the money. You could be there for 5 minutes or 5 hours. The difference is clearly there are many more unknowns in gambling, hence the game of chance and betting on uncertain outcomes.

However, I can say that gambling is a ludic fallacy. True games must occur in non-real space. The magic circle, a baseball diamond, doll house, where we can play without risking real-world dangers. Since gambling looks like a game, but uses real money, it is a ludic fallacy.

Gambling often uses specific patterns of activity which trick the brain’s chemical reward mechanism, to produce a kind of addiction. Secondarily, beyond the chemical buzz, the patterns used (4 wins in 10 tries, for instance) can bring on the so-called “Gambler’s fallacy” which makes one think you can recover lost money by more gambling, while the opposite is true.

Gambling also uses advanced game theory mathematics to insure the house wins by a reliable, advantageous ratio. That is how they afford those nice casinos. There is never any question about which party will come out on top.

So, is gambling a trick, a con, a lie, a theft, a possible addiction. Yes.

-Genjourist Saurabh Sharma

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