Is Gambling Wrong?

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Is it Wrong to Gamble

Is gambling wrong? I don’t know about you, but my dad raised me to avoid gambling. He was, by nature, a risk-averse person. I’m not sure that he ever expected me to write about gambling as a career.

I can make an argument that gambling is wrong in some situations but not in others.

And that’s what I plan to do in this post.

Keep reading below to examine several viewpoints on whether gambling is wrong.

Whether Gambling Is Wrong or Not Depends on Your Situation

Let’s look at some examples of different individuals who might like to gamble.

The first is my friend Steve. He makes $15 per hour, which equates to $30,000 a year. He’s far from well-off, but he’s making it work. The rent on his modest apartment gets paid on time every month, and he gets his bills paid.

He’s in debt, though, and he has no savings.

He spends $20 a week on lottery tickets.

That’s $1,000 a year, or just over 3% of his annual income.

Is it wrong for him to gamble?

Yeah, of course it is. If he’s in debt and has no savings, especially at his age (48), he should be putting that money toward paying down his debts and saving for an emergency and/or retirement.

The second example is my friend Dave. He founded a large company and sold it. His share of the profits was $800 million. He goes to Vegas four times a year, and he loses an average of $4,000 on each trip, for annual losses of $16,000.

On his $800 million, he sees an annual return of $80 million. He’s a savvy investor.

And he lives well beneath his means and donates $8 million a year to charity.

Is it wrong for Dave to spend $16,000 a year on real money gambling?

I’d suggest that if he gets a kick out of gambling away such a small amount of money, he should do so without guilt, especially since he’s contributed so much to society.

The size of your income and net worth compared to the amount of money you lose gambling isn’t the only factor you can look at, but it’s one that counts, for sure.

What’s Right and Wrong With Recreational Gambling?

You can argue that recreational gambling does nothing but take money out of circulation that could be used for better purposes. For example, that money could be donated to charities or education. I’ve seen notable investors like Warren Buffett and Charlie Munger complain about how casinos are a blight on society because they prey on the poor and the weak.

They have a point, and it might be valid.

But it’s also one-sided.

This line of thinking doesn’t account for the jobs created by the industry. It’s hard to argue that these jobs don’t count.

I know some casino dealers, and I can promise you this—

They think their jobs count.

Casino Gambling

I know plenty of cocktail waitresses and bartenders who also think their jobs matter.

When I talk about recreational gambling, I’m mostly thinking about casino gambling. The house always wins in the long run with casino gambling. They never offer games with fair odds.

Even poker rooms and sportsbooks tilt the odds in their favor and make money from recreational gamblers.

These “recreational” gamblers view the money they lose gambling as an entertainment expense. As long as they’re getting their money’s worth, who am I to say that their gambling is wrong?

How That Differs From Professional Gambling

Professional gamblers, on the other hand, have a different perspective. Their goal is to get a mathematical edge and make a long-term profit. They have a limited number of activities available to them.

Professional gamblers can get an edge at blackjack by counting cards. I’ve written multiple blog posts about counting cards in blackjack and how it works.

But let me just point out that not all card counters are profitable. The edge when counting cards is a small edge to begin with. If you’re not in the top 5% of counters, you’re probably losing money in the long run, even if you think you’re winning.

Professional gamblers can also get an edge at poker by playing well. This is a small edge, and 90% to 95% of poker players lose money in the long run. I think poker is still the best route for someone who wants to gamble professionally, but that’s based in no small part on my own demeanor and interests.

And professional gamblers can get an edge betting on sports, too, but it’s not easy. The vig makes it almost impossible to break even, much less make a consistent profit. Nonetheless, some people do so.

Is it wrong to gamble professionally?

I’d be quick to point out that people should be allowed to do whatever they want as long as they’re not hurting anyone else.

On the other hand, I can understand why someone might think it’s wrong to contribute nothing more to society than participation in games of chance and skill for money.

I want to make more of a contribution to society than just sitting at a poker table. In my own small way, I like to think I’m making a contribution to the lives of gamblers by making them better-informed about their hobby.

The Casino, Gambling, Poker, and Sportsbook Businesses

The math behind all of these businesses is similar. Casino games make money for the casino based on the house edge, which is the difference between the odds of winning and the payout odds for each bet. Poker rooms make their money by charging a “rake,” a percentage of each pot that they collect before awarding the pot to the winning player in a hand. And sportsbooks make their money from the “vig,” the difference between what you must risk to win a bet.

For example, in blackjack, you must play your hand before the dealer plays her hand. If you bust, you lose immediately. If the dealer busts when she plays her hand, you’ve already lost. This small difference gives the casino a tiny edge over the player.

Casino Gambing

In poker, if you win a $1,000 bet, the poker room has taken $50 of that money and put it into their drop box to pay for your space at the table.

And in sports betting, you’re required to wager $110 to win $100 on a 50/50 shot to win.

It should be obvious in all those situations where the house gets its mathematical edge.

Is that mathematical edge wrong?

I feel like, as long as the gamblers aren’t misled, there’s no wrongdoing here.

Any gambler who thinks he has a 50/50 chance of winning a hand of blackjack or a bet at the roulette table owes it to himself to study some probability math more closely.

What About the Lottery?

I’m pretty firmly in favor of saying that gambling isn’t wrong.

But then I get to the lottery, which is arguably the most popular type of gambling in the country,

and I firmly believe that the lottery is wrong.

Here’s why:

The state has no business running what amounts to a casino offering lousy odds. The payback percentage on a lottery ticket is 50% to 60% at best, which means that you can get better odds at any casino. Even the worst slot machine games have a payout percentage of 75% or higher.

The states sell the idea of the lottery as a revenue generator for education, but studies have demonstrated repeatedly that the additional revenue generated by the lottery rarely gets into the education fund.

Should Problem Gamblers Learn to Gamble Moderately?

I think most people would agree that problem gamblers shouldn’t gamble at all. If you’re the type of individual who has had some experience recovering from addiction, you’re likely familiar with the idea that
moderation doesn’t work.

For some, absolute abstinence is the only solution.

If you read even a small amount of the literature related to problem gambling, you’ll soon realize that the horror stories related to problem gambling are just as awful as those related to any dependency you’ve ever heard about.

Since most people have others in their life who care about them and are affected by their behavior, I’d say that developing or nurturing a gambling addiction is definitely wrong.

Conclusion

Is gambling wrong?

The short answer is, it all depends on said gambler and their situation.
For some people, gambling is almost certainly a mistake.

For others, gambling can be a great hobby that’s easily affordable and can even allow you to turn a profit while having fun.

I’d encourage you to give some careful thought to your own gambling behavior before making that decision for yourself.

Michael Stevens

Michael Stevens has been researching and writing topics involving the gambling industry for well over a decade now and is considered an expert on all things casino and sports betting. Michael has been writing for GamblingSites.org since early 2016. ...

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