18 November 2009

Gambling: Some Definitions and Distinctions

by Phil Johnson

This is part 2 of a series that started here. Bear in mind that all of this series was written more than 4 years before any of these comments. (You guys are so predictable!)



To gamble is to wager on a contest or to play at a game of chance for stakes. When you gamble, you are risking money (or something else of value) on the outcome of something that involves an element of chance, uncertainty, or hazard—for the possibility of winning something someone else has put at stake.

A stake is a prize one person stands to gain through the loss of others.

Simple contest prizes, such as free sweepstakes and door prizes, do not involve gambling if no fee is charged for entry into the contest. Sweepstakes contests sponsored for advertising purposes are paid for by the sponsor. The winner's prize is not financed by the loss of other contestants. Therefore it is not gambling. Nothing is put at stake by the contestants in such events.

Likewise, investing in the stock market is not "gambling," regardless of how much risk is involved. If a stock gains value, all investors earn money. The gains of one investor are not financed by the losses of others. In other words, there are no losers when a stock gains value. When the stock value increases, the economic "pie" grows.

By contrast the size of the economic pie in a gambling contest is fixed. The prize is a pool of money contributed by the players. A casino may take a percentage of that pie off the top, but otherwise, the size of the pie is fixed by the aggregate total of the players' contributions.

Similarly, a farmer who plants seed hoping to yield a crop takes a calculated risk. (If weather or disease destroys the crop, he could lose all he has invested in the crop.) That risk is not, technically, a "gamble," because if the investment pays off, no one loses. Real wealth has been created, unlike in gambling, where no wealth is ever actually created.

In gambling, existing wealth merely changes hands. In other words, one person's gain always comes at the price of hurt caused to others. That is the reason an immoral principle underlies all gambling. (We'll probe this point more carefully before the end of this series.)

One more misconception is worth trying to clear up: You'll often hear someone compare the insurance business to gambling. But although buying and selling insurance involves risk, it is not the moral equivalent of gambling. Assuming risk per se is not gambling. As we know, life is full of risk, and if the act of taking a risk were inherently the same as gambling, you could say that we all gamble every day.

In fact, that is precisely what some who advocate gambling do say. They point out that you take a risk every time you get in an airplane or ride in a car—or walk across the street. You would also face some risk even if all you did was stay in bed trying to avoid risk. Therefore, they say, life itself is a gamble.

But all of that is based on a faulty understanding of what gambling is. Look again at our definitions: To gamble is to play a game of chance for stakes. And a stake is a prize that is obtained at another gambler's expense. Remember: in gambling, whatever one person wins is lost by another.

Furthermore, in gambling, the risk is artificial. It is risk that is created by a game of chance. And the sole purpose for assuming this risk is to try to gain something at someone else's expense.

Now, notice this: all gambling involves four elements: One, something valuable is put at risk. Two, something belonging to someone else is at stake as a prize. Three, an element of chance is involved in determining the outcome. And four, no new wealth is created in the process.

And those four characteristics of gambling are the very reasons gambling is wrong. Each of the essential characteristics of gambling, when combined with the other three, violates one or more biblical principles. In the next post in this series, we'll begin to see why.

Phil's signature

114 comments:

aznwinterfresh05 said...

Would this principle apply to a competition such as playing fantasy basketball or competing in a spelling bee where the pot (as in the overall prize) is the entrance fee?

Andrew Faris said...

The only gambling I've ever done is a $10 buy-in game of poker with a bunch of friends. Maybe I've played for $20 once or twice, but certainly no "real money" as it were.

Playing poker with 6 or 7 friends for that much money means that (1) nothing especially valuable is, in fact, at risk; (2) the "something belonging to someone else" is so little that I don't think I'm really hurting anyone's finances- heck, it's my friends, so if I did, I wouldn't be able to sleep at night; (3) the chance is definitely there, and is definitely much of the fun- no denying it- I'll have to see the biblical case against this one; (4) since no one is really out to "make money" in these games, this simply doesn't bother me, just as it wouldn't bother me to not make money on the 10 bucks I'd put down on a movie.

So it really is simple entertainment with such low stakes, and I think that's fine.

But of course, it begs Cent's question from early in the last post: why not just play for a silly prize then and not money?

The answer is simple: most of us are too impatient. Playing poker with any kind of skill (and there is much skill in poker, to be sure) normally means playing patiently, often throwing away one hand after another, and waiting for the right cards. That's why games can last so long. If there's no money to protect or earn, then I'm just not willing to wait it out- I don't care enough about poker.

So I'm in a strange place. If I lose in $10 poker, I don't walk away feeling bad about the money I lost, cheated, or like I just made a terribly unwise decision. I'd rather spend it there where friends converse around a table for a good period of time than staring blankly at a movie. The money is just that little incentive to wait for the next hand.

The point is that there must be some kind of cut-off, right? There most be some point where the value of the gamble is low enough to where it begins to be fun competition and not real gambling.

Andrew
Christians in Context

Jason Smathers said...

By this logic, selling a stock short is a sin because you require the loss of the share holders to gain a profit.

When buying a stock, if it goes up in value, your profits are at the expense of those who sold the stock short. Participating in the stock market at all is enabling those that use the stock market to gamble rather than invest.

Andy Dollahite said...

Thanks again. I'm finding your points cogent, Phil. It's providentially interesting how the topic of gambling has appeared in a number of the feeds on my RSS today.

Sir Brass said...

Excellent response, phil.

J♥Yce said...

Simple contest prizes...paid for by the sponsor...not gambling.

Doesn't one have to be careful?...one prize patrol has had state legal issues in the past due to contest wording while many folks(even following updated wording) believe that purchases increase chances of winning(oft the most vulnerable elderly & of low income). The sponsor gambles that folks discontent and unthankful for God's supply will buy, buy, and buy again ~ no prize without that even with promises till the cows come home that no purchases are necessary to win.

Wondering how radically different it will be like when the Lord returns? Even for those consumers consumed with buying for free or reduced at the expense of others oft paying thumb on the scale prices just before the "tickler" promotion. Maybe marketing sponsors and shoppers gamble. Insurance companies. hmmmm, 3-point gambleists not 4-point gambleist guilty.

Agree with Phil ~ gambling is gambling is gambling. Right down to penny anny or matchsticks. Believers covet, go greedy, eventually wake up to the addiction of acting as do children of the night. Day children should invest instead in heavenly treasure void of defrauding. Own business. Hands. Honestly. Lack nothing. Whatsoever. All as unto the Lord. Barn/house raising or house/car repairing or quilting bee or rug braiding circle or Bible study or loving neighbors or somethin reflecting yielding to the mind of Christ.

Thanks ~

Johnny Dialectic said...

I think the key is element #1: something "valuable" put "at risk." Does a quarter count as something "valuable"? Or is value related to means? I would argue the latter.

If I pay $10 to go to a movie, I am actually handing over "value" for a return measured in entertainment and relaxation. The $10 is not "at risk." It's actually gone.

If I instead put out 25 cents for an entertainment/relaxation value, and actually win 25 cents from someone else who has done the same, I don't see any moral difference. Certainly it is not stealing, as the exchange is voluntary. And since I do not find the other three elements Phil lists immoral per se (this has yet to be proven biblically), I'm not convinced about the de minimis games I've described.

I do share all the concerns about large scale gambling, casinos and the like. And do believe the key is Phil's #1, something "valuable at risk." That's why this seems to fall squarely into Romans 14.

D.J. Williams said...

In our economic system, is not all gain at someone else's expense? If I open a business that makes a really cool gadget that everyone decides they must have, and my bank account gets padded by people who are racking up their credit card debt, isn't that essentially the same thing here?

Bob Johnson said...

This series is already yielding fruit. I'm very much looking forward to the rest of the posts and will be sharing these points with friends.

wordsmith said...

In our economic system, is not all gain at someone else's expense?

No, because there is exchange of one thing of value (money) for another thing of value (the widget). The exchange is presumably equal, else the purchaser would walk away from the deal without completing the transaction.

trogdor said...

"In our economic system, is not all gain at someone else's expense?"

No. No. No. For the ten thousandth time, no.

Somehow this ridiculous notion that the economy is a zero-sum game, that every transaction involves a winner and a loser, has infected this conversation, and it's beyond tiresome. All it takes is a single example of a mutually beneficial transaction to blow this nonsensical idea completely out of the water. The fact is, the overwhelming majority of exchanges are mutually beneficial, and the only reason they're not all mutually beneficial is that people are stupid/ignorant/sinful.

So please, can we all just drop the childish nonsense that requires winners and losers in every exchange. The electric company is not exploiting you by selling you electricity. Subway is not exploiting you by selling you a footlong sub (which, you may have heard, costs five dolla), nor are you exploiting them by buying a sub so cheap. Home Depot is not exploiting you by allowing you to buy a small portion of the company in exchange for dividends on future profits. You are not exploiting the masses by inventing something that improves their quality of life for a price they are willing to pay.

Profit is not evil.

D.J. Williams said...

trogdor said...
"You are not exploiting the masses by inventing something that improves their quality of life for a price they are willing to pay.

Profit is not evil."


Exactly. My question is thus - how does this statement not apply to gambling? Why are you exploiting the masses by offering something that improves their quality of life (the entertainment of a game of poker, say) for a price they are willing to pay? If that is sinful, then why isn't it sinful to offer something else entertaining (whether tangible like an iPhone or intangible like going to a sporting event) for a price people willingly pay. Because gambling can destroy lives? I'd wager (no pun intended) that far more people in our country ruin themselves with credit card debt chasing iPhones and TVs (all marketed aggressively to feed our covetousness) than by gambling debt. So what's the difference?

The Doulos said...

Phil, some very helpful, and I think accurate, definitions. Our thinking about gambling is too often muddied by the cultural bent around us. For example, I've heard several of my co-workers refer to buying lottery tickets as an "alternate tax." Pretty poor understanding of economics and government displayed in that.

Trogdor - exactly. We are far too influenced in our understanding of free market capitalism by the moral socialists that equate any kind of profit with greed.

Daryl said...

D.J.

The difference is that those folks are in debt because they chose to use credit.
In no way is credit a requirement to make a purchase and in no way does the seller require that you use credit in order to make a profit.

And...as has been stated already, those who used their credit cards still got a valuable thing in return. It's not like they don't get to take the plywood home if they use a credit card.

Besides, their problem isn't that they used a credit card, it's that they didn't pay it off. A very different thing.

Daryl said...

Doulos,

I've never heard of "alternate tax", I've mostly heard "stupid tax", which seems pretty appropriate.

wordsmith said...

My question is thus - how does this statement not apply to gambling?...

Have you even read any of Phil's definitions, or are you being deliberately obtuse?

You don't have to be Milton Friedman to grasp the basics of economics.

Stan said...

I've never spent more than $20, never walked away with more than I came in with, and never expected to actually win. (I don't believe in chance or "good luck".) On those three occasions that I can recall that I "gambled", it was for a short period of entertainment, not a hope for gain. Without intending to justify it, does that qualify as sinful gambling?

Chad V. said...

Poker enhances one's quality of life?

D.J. Williams said...

Daryl said...
"The difference is that those folks are in debt because they chose to use credit. In no way is credit a requirement to make a purchase and in no way does the seller require that you use credit in order to make a profit."

The same can be said of the gambler - he is in debt because he chose to spend more than he should have.

"And...as has been stated already, those who used their credit cards still got a valuable thing in return."

What did I get of value when I went to an NFL playoff game last year? An experience - the same thing a casino offers. In fact, because my team got trashed, it wasn't even a perfectly great experience, just as it often is for the casino goer. I guess I gambled that I'd be seeing a good game, huh? That evil NFL.

wordsmith said...
"Have you even read any of Phil's definitions,"

Yes.

"or are you being deliberately obtuse?"

No.

"You don't have to be Milton Friedman to grasp the basics of economics."

Then interact with my statement and tell me what I'm getting wrong.

D.J. Williams said...

Chad V. said...
"Poker enhances one's quality of life?"

As much as watching a football game does.

Johnny Dialectic said...

Stan: No.

Daryl: those who used their credit cards still got a valuable thing in return.

Is relaxation a valuable thing? Is going to a movie for enjoyment a valuable thing? I would argue, it can be. It can also be sinful if abused. Which, again, is why Romans 14 applies, not a blanket condemnation.

At least that's where I am at this point. Looking forward to more on this discussion.

SandMan said...

I really like the way Trogdor explained the economic system... especially the "five dolla footlong."

I am inclined to agree with Andrew Faris regarding the $10 poker night with the boys... you knew you'd probably lose it.. you went for the fellowship.

I also think there is merit in what Joyce said: Barn/house raising or house/car repairing or quilting bee or rug braiding circle or Bible study or loving neighbors or somethin reflecting yielding to the mind of Christ.

Maybe it is time for more Christians to be more committed to wholesome activities... even if it is "just the guys." Actually, especially if it is just the guys. I like the $10 dollar poker game, too... maybe this is a road sign from the Lord Jesus that I need to re-evaluate what is entertaining (thinking out loud here).

I also agree with D.J. Williams:I'd wager (no pun intended) that far more people in our country ruin themselves with credit card debt chasing iPhones and TVs (all marketed aggressively to feed our covetousness) than by gambling debt.

But, this post is about gambling... not ALL vices. Credit mismanagement is different than gambling addiction. Both destructive, but different. We don't argue in favor of drunkeness by stating that more lives are destroyed by promiscuity. I grew up Catholic and give no space to the venial vs. mortal sins argument that sometimes creeps in amongst us (even if we don't use those phrases).

pcraig said...

A few thoughts:

What about gambling when it isn't about pure chance? There is a lot of skill in poker.

Does it make a difference if you are able to take assess a game probabilistically, and can justifiably expect to make a profit (admittedly a theoretical case)?

With the stock market, doesn't it make a difference that if someone sells a stock to you, or buys a stock from you, you are both effectively "betting" the opposite way? Investing in stocks is only worth doing if you buy/sell shares - so if the value of your holding increases, someone else has bet the wrong way. (Is that kind of "theoretical" loss relevant here?)

I also don't see why it matters if you take something belonging to someone else, if they agree to it and the terms. Isn't that a bit like a commercial transaction? But hopefully that will be addressed in the next post.

A strong argument against gambling, in my mind, is its addictive power and how it enslaves people - much like porn. There was an article available on the First Things web site about it, which is well worth reading.

Chad V. said...

D.J.

You know the thing I find the most interesting about all you who try to justify gambling? You can't seem to deal with gambling as it's own issue. Instead you need to re-direct the argument to another subject like baseball, football, the stock market, legitimate business or recreation. Things which have no relationship to gambling and then you argue that if football is ok then so is gambling.

You're still trying to get all your licks in before you've heard all of the matter. Perhaps you could wait until Phil has said all he has to say. Phil has alluded to the fact that gambling violates biblical principles. Maybe you ought to wait until he exposits those principles.

I said it in the last string and I'll repeat it here. The only time gambling is mentioned in the bible it's not mentioned as a good thing. The Roman soldiers gambled for pieces of Christ's garments.

D.J. Williams said...

SandMan said...
"But, this post is about gambling... not ALL vices. Credit mismanagement is different than gambling addiction. Both destructive, but different."

Agreed. My point is simply that we would all say that the problem with credit mismanagement is not that TVs and football tickets are sinful, but that poor financial stewardship is the problem. Why then, don't we say that the problem with gambling debtors isn't the poker game, but rather the same financial stewardship problem. Much like pop evangelicalism treats drunkenness (alcohol is the problem, they say) differently than gluttony (abuse is the problem, they say), why do we treat gambling differently from other forms of entertainment that offer nothing tangible in return for our money?

D.J. Williams said...

Chad V. said...
"You know the thing I find the most interesting about all you who try to justify gambling? You can't seem to deal with gambling as it's own issue. Instead you need to re-direct the argument to another subject like baseball, football, the stock market, legitimate business or recreation. Things which have no relationship to gambling and then you argue that if football is ok then so is gambling."

Because consistency matters in ethics. I believe that if you can't apply a moral principle consistently across the whole spectrum of life, then it's a pretty good indicator that your moral reasoning is faulty. Thus, if the gambling-is-sin crowd wants to make that case, I think that applying it to other applicable realms is a good test of it's truthfulness.

"You're still trying to get all your licks in before you've heard all of the matter. Perhaps you could wait until Phil has said all he has to say. Phil has alluded to the fact that gambling violates biblical principles. Maybe you ought to wait until he exposits those principles."

I'm actually eagerly awaiting the next post. This one has challenged me to think deeply about the subject, and I look forward to more. That doesn't mean that I don't explore the logic of this post, though.

"I said it in the last string and I'll repeat it here. The only time gambling is mentioned in the bible it's not mentioned as a good thing. The Roman soldiers gambled for pieces of Christ's garments."

Not quite. Theology by cliche is a dangerous thing. Do a little searching. The Scripture is full of references to the casting of lots, and most of them are morally ambivalent. In fact, Joshua apportioned some of the land of Israel in Joshua 18 by casting lots before the Lord.

Chad V. said...

Anyone ever heard of little league poker? Thought not.....

Chad V. said...

D.J.

Not the same kind of casting lots and not for the same purpose.

geekforgreek said...

Could you please address how your definition does not include the stock market with short selling in view.

Chad V. said...

DJ

Joshua's casting lots had nothing to do with gambling.

Are you suggesting the Roman soldiers were relying on the providence of God in order to know which scrap of Christ's garments they should take?

Chad V. said...

DJ
I agree, consistency is important. So, if there is no moral difference between poker and football perhaps you could start a little league poker club.

Johnny Dialectic said...

Chad V., those other activities are arguments by analogy, which is perfectly permissible. You would have to show how the analogy does not fit, which has not been done yet.

I, too, am enjoying the give and take, and look forward to the central principle Phil is going to posit next.

SandMan said...

D.J. said: why do we treat gambling differently from other forms of entertainment that offer nothing tangible in return for our money?

I am not qualified to speak for PJ, but I think that his post is saying gambling is distinctly different (than say, the NFL, to use your example) because the other 70,000 fans did not have to lose their tickets in order for you to watch the game.
In addition, I think we all know about the ATM's every 10 feet in the maze-like casinos that are designed to keep you from leaving, and put your cash at finger's reach. Last time I left a football game it was pretty simple.

That still doesn't answer the poker night with the guys, but I'll leave that to Phil to develop. I am looking forward to it.

I do want to say one thing further about the sporting events. It is not really on topic, so if you're not interested please stop reading NOW: (also, Team Pyro, I bow to your discretion to delete this).

I used to work security at the NFL games in college. It was a great way for me to go to the game and actually get PAID for it. I don't think that NFL games should necessarily get the "free pass" that is being argued here. There's the 70k rowdy, drunken fans. There's the scantily dressed cheerleaders. There's the countless arrests for fighting in the stands. Then, there's the hundreds (thousands?) who drive home drunk. I never left feeling edified.

I LOVE to watch the Bucs play. But I had to bow out of fantasy football, and for a while I quit watching altogether because my demeanor/attitude toward my wife and kids was always sour after a loss. They are the BUCS, afterall.

Not condemning the game... but please, let's seriously check our entertainment and see if it has becme an idol.

Chad V. said...

Johnny

Do you plan on taking any young children to see a poker tournament?

Johnny Dialectic said...

Chad: How does your question address the analogy issue?

David Rudd said...

I'm anxious to see how Phil finishes this.

For now, I'm agreeing with DJ. The arguments from most of the commentors seem to be overly materialistic, suggesting that monetary gain and loss is justified or not justified based on tangible evidence of transaction.

If I receive money from someone and have given them nothing but joy is that necessarily the price of "hurt"? (Phil's words)

This is the part of Phil's argument I'm most anxious to hear. How is the "price of hurt" determined?

Obviously benefiting from someone else's involuntary loss violates a great deal of clear Scriptural teaching.

I believe that one can argue from Scripture that benefiting from one's voluntary loss CAN be immoral, however this is certainly a less clear issue.

Finally, it's very difficult to put price tags on non-physical things.

How much money am I willing to lose in order to spend time with my friends? If I lose $25 but spend 2 hours with my friend (who gained $25) have I really lost anything?

One other thought on biblical mentions:

Prov. 18:18.

Looks like everyone is invested and someone is winning and someone is losing on a "game" of chance.

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

PJ, thanks for providing definitions and distinctions.

I need help however. Specifically, does entry fee tournament play constitute sinful gambling under the definitions you provided? Entry fee tournament play such as tournament bowling, tournament golf, tournament poker, tournament backgammon, tournament bass fishing, etc....

Also, you wrote: "Likewise, investing in the stock market is not "gambling," regardless of how much risk is involved. If a stock gains value, all investors earn money. The gains of one investor are not financed by the losses of others. In other words, there are no losers when a stock gains value. When the stock value increases, the economic "pie" grows."

Phil, as I asked before on the previous thread: "For those who defend investing/playing the market as not being gambling, would it be okay with you (Phil Johnson) to have a bi-vocational pastor who day-trades to help make a living?"

I'm looking forward to your distinctions.

Justin said...

While reading some of comments, I find it interesting how there is an equivocation between playing the stock market and poker. In essence, I believe they are much the same. If I am to study a wide variety of stocks, I can typically ascertain I have a certain percentage that the stock will climb(or that it will drop if I short sell). Similarly, if I am playing poker if I'm dealt a certain hand I know my percentages of winning from my cards. After the flop, I can then see my percentage going either up or down.
Much like the stocks if I study and get good info. I can theoretically make a good play on the market. As with poker, if I know the mathematical percentages I can make the same play as if I were "investing" in the market.
I say this because I believe their is an enormous difference between the lottery, slots, and poker.
The first two are just luck of the draw. While in poker(though what two cards you get are luck of the draw), I am using statistical analysis(much like I would in the stock market), to determine whether or not I can get "value" for my investment.

Chad V. said...

Johnny

Answer the question please.

Andrew said...

D.J. said,

"Why then, don't we say that the problem with gambling debtors isn't the poker game, but rather the same financial stewardship problem."

No one has yet said that playing a poker game with chips is wrong.

If you read Phil's posts then you already know that gambling violates other Biblical principles besides poor stewardship.

And beause poor stewardship is usually not as visible or discernable, we shouldn't expect it to be so easily called out as the sinfulness of gambling. Neither does widespread practicing of poor stewardship justify gambling, which involves that and much more.

"In our economic system, is not all gain at someone else's expense?."

Either you have not grasped that gambling does not create profit OR you do not understand how wealth is created in a capitalist system. Possibly both?

Johnny Dialectic said...

Chad, you can't jump around like this. It's not good argumentation. One issue at a time. You brought up the analogy issue, I've pointed out your error. If you accept that, we can move on.

Chad V. said...

Johnny

I have to step away for a while so I'll just finish my point for you.

I hope you would say "no" to my question.

The analogy assumes that football or the stock exchange are the comparable to poker or other forms of gambling. This is absurd.

No one teaches children how to gamble but we do teach them to play sports and when I was in middle school we went on a field trip to the Chicago Stock Exchange. We do teach them how the economy works and how to handle money responsibly.

If someone were to start a little league poker club or teach them a class in gambling in school even the heathen would recognize that as a moral outrage. There is simply no comparing sports or legitimate business practice with gambling. None at all. The comparison is perverse.

D.J. Williams said...

Sandman said...
"Not condemning the game... but please, let's seriously check our entertainment and see if it has becme an idol."

Whether we're talking football, iPhones or gambling, take that sentence, apply it to your heart, and you'll be fine. Well put.

Chad V. said...
"Joshua's casting lots had nothing to do with gambling.

Are you suggesting the Roman soldiers were relying on the providence of God in order to know which scrap of Christ's garments they should take?"


In one case, a game of chance determined how land would be alloted. In the other, a game of chance determined how clothing would be alloted. The actions were identical. The only difference is attitude. The problem, then, is the soldiers' attitudes, not the casting of lots.

"So, if there is no moral difference between poker and football perhaps you could start a little league poker club."

I would have zero moral qualms with teaching kids to play the game of poker. The game itself, like football, is morally neutral.

Johnny Dialectic said...

Chad, thanks. My answer to your question is No.

But you have changed the terms of the analogy. The enjoyment aspect of paying for football, or a movie, is the same as exchanging that which one can afford for enjoyment of another sort. I used penny backgammon as an example. That's not perverse, IMO. At least, I have not yet seen a biblical principle or admonition against this. Again, I'm open to correction.

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

Justin: "I find it interesting how there is an equivocation between playing the stock market and poker. In essence, I believe they are much the same."

Chad V.: "There is simply no comparing sports or legitimate business practice with gambling. None at all. The comparison is perverse."

Hmmmm, much the same or a perverse comparison?

Chad V., would it be okay with you to have a bi-vocational pastor who day-trades to help make a living?

D.J. Williams said...

Andrew said...
"Either you have not grasped that gambling does not create profit OR you do not understand how wealth is created in a capitalist system. Possibly both?"

I love how everyone is assuming that I must be an intellectual economic moron if I don't agree with them. How's this?

The NFL is a business that we would agree is not inherently sinful. Going to and NFL game is not a sin. How does the NFL operate as a businees? When I buy my ticket, I what am I getting in return? I receive an entertaining experience. How is the NFL able to provide that experience to me? Because it is funded by the profits they have made from the millions of others who have bought tickets. For my money, I am receiving a product bankrolled by other willing consumers. Some of them consume wisely, some do not. We don't, however, blame the NFL for that, despite the fact that the NFL aggressively markets their product.

Now, let's examine a casino. How does a casino operate as a businees? When I pay my my money to play their games, what am I getting in return? I receive an entertaining experience, as well as the chance of cash. How is the casino able to provide that experience and possible cash to me? Because it is funded by the profits they have made from the millions of others who have played their games. For my money, I am receiving a product bankrolled by other willing consumers. Some of them consume wisely, some do not. Like the NFL, the casino aggressively markets their product. However, we say that the act of going to the casino to play the games is a sin. Why?

That sensical enough for everyone? Perhaps we would have better discussions if we didn't assume that those who disagree with us do so because they are ignorant (i.e. not as smart as me). It does nothing but feed our pride.

Jim Pemberton said...

The moral equivocation of financial investment with gambling is erroneous. Financial investment has as its core the creation of wealth. Gambling does not. Good financial investment focuses on the development of economic growth with some return on your investment for your trouble. Do people gamble at the stock market? Sure. And it’s just as sinful as gambling at the casino.

So on the issue of entertainment, I have to wonder what’s so entertaining about pulling a slot machine, betting on horses or playing the dice or cards. At a ball game, there’s the entertainment of enjoying a game of competition with friends or family. At a movie or stage production, there’s the entertainment of the show. But the only entertaining benefit I can see by gambling is the hope of financial gain against the odds, and that’s simply not good stewardship. You can play odds without gambling. I enjoy a good card game from time to time. Whoever has the most points wins. We don’t have to gamble for that.

And if I’m going to lose large sums of money I’m going to invest in missions, either my own or to send someone else. It’s not gambling to know that the word of God does not come back void even if you don’t know the particular results. There’s a sense of satisfaction and glee that goes far beyond any entertainment, and I have given up certain entertainment to do so.

word verification: "algods"

Jugulum said...

I'd like to make a suggestion to everyone who's discussing the moral principles.

Stop. Wait till Phil makes his case. Try to limit the discussion to the subject at hand.

This post was about definitions and distinctions. He didn't make his argument about how gambling violates biblical principles. He only described the characteristics of gambling, and argued that for a distinction between gambling and investment.

For sanity's sake... How about we limit the argument to that? Argue about what's gambling and what isn't. Argue with the definition Phil gave. Argue about what fits the definition. (Is investment gambling, or not? Is day-trading the same as long-term investment? Is selling short gambling? Tournaments where the entry fees go into a prize? Fund-raising raffles?)

Then discuss the moral ramifications of gambling when Phil makes his case. (Saying, "I'm going to make my case from these" is not making his case.)

Justin said...

"So, if there is no moral difference between poker and football perhaps you could start a little league poker club."

I actually play poker with my son, who is 7, as it helps him develop math skills and to think critically.

Ron said...

Are our thoughts on the stock market portion of this discussion biased by;

1. Our own personal involvement ie. retirement funds, 401k's and mutual funds.

2. The ramifications of a concenses that it is gambling and the results thereof.

3. Our theorictcal perception of what investing is, contrasting to what actions actually effect price action, whether appreciation or depreciation, both short and long term.

Andrew said...

D.J. said,

”I love how everyone is assuming that I must be an intellectual economic moron if I don't agree with them. “

I question whether you understand the basics of capitalism based upon your comments (which I cited), not because of disagreement.

With this ridiculous comparison of the NFL to a casino, all doubt has been removed. Going to an NFL game means “receiving a product bankrolled by other willing consumers”???

Dude I am not asking or suggesting, I am TELLING you that you don’t get it.


” Perhaps we would have better discussions if we didn't assume that those who disagree with us do so because they are ignorant (i.e. not as smart as me). It does nothing but feed our pride.”

There is another kind of pride in making bold statements while insisting that one understands what they are talking about when they do not. Have you considered this?

Your comments betray how government schooling and mainstream media collectivist propaganda has affected your thinking. You simply do not understand how wealth is created in capitalism. The concepts can be understood by most 6th graders. I am confident that you are much smarter than myself. Which makes me believe this is a result of collectivist brainwashing and/or the blindness caused by sin.

Jugulum said...

Andrew,

DJ wasn't comparing casino gambling with the creation of wealth in normal business. He was comparing casino gambling with NFL football.

Address his comparison there. Point out where the comparison fails. (He carefully laid out the two paragraphs to make it easy.)

If your critique is based on "that's not creating wealth", then you're not listening.

David Rudd said...

Which makes me believe this is a result of collectivist brainwashing and/or the blindness caused by sin.

really?

a good sign that all should take Jugulum's advice and wait for Phil to finish.

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

Jugulum: "Argue about what fits the definition. ... Tournaments where the entry fees go into a prize?"

Jugulum, in advance of Phil's response (assuming he does respond), what would your answer be to the question:

"Specifically, does entry fee tournament play constitute sinful gambling under the definitions Phil provided? Entry fee tournament play such as tournament bowling, tournament golf, tournament poker, tournament backgammon, tournament bass fishing, etc...."

Andrew said...

Jugulum,
I did point out one place where the comparison fails. Were you listening?

His whole explanation of the NFL's buisness as a casino is wrong.

The comparison is just some jumbled similarities that casinos and the NFL have in common. What use is it? The only statements in the comparison which are correct are irrelevant (e.g. they both entertain.... and your point is?)

The same "comparison" could be said about my doctor's office (since I am one of many hundreds of patients) or my local church. The only difference is that those fall outside of the entertainment industry.

D.J. Williams said...

Andrew said...
"With this ridiculous comparison of the NFL to a casino, all doubt has been removed."

Are you going to tell me why it's ridiculous, or just continue asserting that it is so?

Justin said...

"I did point out one place where the comparison fails. Were you listening?"


"Which makes me believe this is a result of collectivist brainwashing and/or the blindness caused by sin."

Andrew, though tone can sometimes be lost when addresing one another through the "comments section".
Perhaps, we would all be better served if we avoided hyperbolic statements and strove more towards an Ephesians 4:13-16 attitude.

Jugulum said...

TUaD,

It looks like fee-based tournaments with prizes fit Phil's definition of gambling, yes. (But... Er... What if the contest managers didn't charge a fee? Does my time and effort count as something valuable put at risk? Or does it not count as gambling if I don't have to pay the fee?)


That gives me a thought. I think I disagree with Phil's first definition. It's not, "One, something valuable is put at risk." It's, "One, something valuable is surrendered."

I'm not sure whether that's an important distinction.

Phil, can you comment?

Andrew said...

Justin,

Point taken.

My experience has been that people who speak of legitimate businesses "exploiting the masses" and that "In our economic system... all gain is at someone else's expense", they are usually parroting the propaganda heard from a leftist professor or on television.
Here it is being used to compare casinos with normal businesses.
Not trying to be mean, and I apologize to DJ if my words came across as unkind.

Jugulum said...

Andrew,

You pointed to a sentence and said it was dumb. You didn't say that the comparison fails there. (Did you think it was a dumb parallel? Or just a dumb way to describe the NFL, but equally a dumb way to describe gambling? Are you saying you think the NFL isn't making a product, or that DJ didn't accurately describe how the NFL makes a product? Do you think providing entertainment isn't a product? If it is, how does gambling fail that definition?)

More importantly, you didn't articulate why it was dumb.

"What use is it?"

Are you actually asking something, like "What was the point?" Or are you just rhetorically saying, "His argument fails" and "His description is wrong"? (As far as I can see, the point of the comparison was to elicit an answer from you--i.e., given these parallels, where's the non-parallel? I assume you understood that, so your question is odd. I'm guessing it was another form of "This is dumb.")

D.J. Williams said...

In response to Jugulum's good advice to keep this more on point, let me try to summarize and restate my original point, and then I'm done.

Johnson made the case that what one gains from gambling necessarily comes from the loss of others. This is a pillar in the case he is building against gambling. In what sense, though, does this happen? A casino makes money by people willingly paying to play their games. That money, paid by consumers, provides the overhead for the casino to provide their entertainment (and a tidy profit on top of it). So, when I (theoretically) go to a casino and pay to play a game, I'm paying for an experience (and the possibility of cash from the house) that exists because others paid their money to the casino (and didn't win anything back). In that sense, yes - my gains (entertainment and monetary) are a direct result of someone else's loss, per Johnson's point.

However, let's examine any other model of business in our economy. I chose the NFL because it, like a casino, is in the entertainment industry and because it is likely viewed by all here as a legitimate business. The NFL makes money by people buying tickets to games, (plus merchandice, TV programming, etc.). Those people gave their money for a desired experience, just like a casino consumer. So, in reality, they "lost" their money in the same way a gambler does at Caesar's. When I go to an NFL game, I am paying to watch a product that is bankrolled by the money those consumers "lost." This is simple business - the NFL's overhead comes from gross income (aside from initial investors, which a casino would have as well). So, when I buy my NFL ticket, I am gaining (an entertainment experience, like that of a casino) that exists because other people lost their money in the exact same sense that casino gamblers lost their money.

Thus, since Johnson's premise (that gambling is sinful because it gains through the required loss of others) would be applicable to the NFL and other businesses in our economic model, one of two things follow - 1) our economic model is sinful or 2) Johnson's premise is flawed. I'm proposing that #2 is the correct option.

That is the case I've been trying to make. My apologies for lack of clarity and contributing to rabbit trails. I look forward to reading the post(s) to come.

Justin said...

While trying to discern whether or not the NFL ( or other forms of entertainment) can be equated to going to a casino, I'm wondering if this is only the surface issue and doesn't quite boil it down to "what is the gospel related issue"?

From past experience, I used too play poker in casinos 4-5 days a week for about 1.5 years of my life. I became very adept at the nuances of the game, yet at the same time I became greedy, poor with my finances, and sacrificed a lot of my time that could have been used on my family and serving others.
I don't write that to say that playing cards is a sin. (If I thought it was I wouldn't teach my son some of the mathematical priciples through poker). In same way poker screwed up my gospel compass, I have seen others' gospel compass screwed by sports, work, etc.
When we only debate over whether "x" or "y" is sin, and fail to question our motives for doing any of the things discussed(movies, games, casino, etc) we tend to lose sight of the cross and it's gospel implications.

Jugulum said...

Justin,

Both conversations are necessary.

1.) "Is this activity, apart from my motivations, morally wrong?" (If so, it's objective sin.)
2.) "Are my motivations in this situation messed up?"

Another one is:
3.) "Does this activity foster bad motives? Sometimes? Often? Always? In everyone, or only in some? Even if I'm not in danger, what about others?"
And that gets into questions about permissible vs profitable, causing brothers to stumble with our liberty, etc.

Phil Johnson said...

Stan:. "I've never spent more than $20, never walked away with more than I came in with, and never expected to actually win. (I don't believe in chance or "good luck".) On those three occasions that I can recall that I "gambled", it was for a short period of entertainment, not a hope for gain. Without intending to justify it, does that qualify as sinful gambling?"

look, I wouldn't argue that someone's deaconship should be revoked if he plays penny-ante poker or drops ten bucks in the slots on a trip to Reno. There are degrees of sin and if we wanted to make a list of trivial, common sins, we could come up with a long one.

My beef is with serious gambling, government-sponsored lotto games, and other aspects of gambling that have shaped and misshaped our culture.

However, a corollary argument is that if the activity itself is sinful on matters of principle, then maybe it isn't the kind of hobby we ought to take up for sheer entertaimment--even if we devise a form of the game that mitigates it's most destructive features.

Jugulum said...

DJ,

In terms of Phil's definition, I can see one clear difference.

With football, there's no stake.

lawrence said...

Chad V:

You do many things that you wouldn't teach your children to do...That doesn't mean you shouldn't do them. Or that it's wrong.

Chad V. said...

Johnny

No I haven't. The analogy has always been that spending money at a ball game is the same as spending it at the casino and that if it's simply "entertainment" that sports and gambling are the same thing, which of course we've demonstrated they aren't.

The backgammon thing is your insertion into the analogy.

DJ

You seriously need to read your Old Testament more carefully if you think that Joshua left the matter of portioning out the land of Canaan up to a game of chance. You're not ready to discuss this from a biblical perspective. The fact that you would as a professing Christian teach a child to play poker is reprehensible.

Your claim that you are eagerly awaiting the rest of Phil's exposition would be more convincing if you suspended your judgement until the whole matter is heard.

D.J. Williams said...

Jugulum said...
"In terms of Phil's definition, I can see one clear difference.

With football, there's no stake."


Perhaps not in a monetary sense, but the entertainment that comes from watching the football game is funded in the exact same way as the cash prize that comes from the casino - both are a product of the respective business' revenue stream. If the source is what concerns us (i.e. loss), then does it matter whether it takes the form of a cash stake or not?

Chad V. said...

lawrence

Seriously man........

Jugulum said...

Phil,

"However, a corollary argument is that if the activity itself is sinful on matters of principle, then maybe it isn't the kind of hobby we ought to take up for sheer entertaimment--even if we devise a form of the game that mitigates it's most destructive features."

That's a different argument from what you said before, right? This part, I mean:

"My point was this: if it's wrong to gamble on matters of biblical principle, then it is wrong to gamble in any circumstance, and it is wrong to gamble in any amount."


If gambling itself violates biblical principle, then it's wrong to gamble in any circumstance--including penny-stakes. (I agree. And there's no "maybe" about it.)

And now you're also saying, if it's the most common manifestations of gambling that violate biblical principle--the circumstances, not gambling itself--then "maybe it isn't the kind of hobby we ought to take up for sheer entertainment," even if we avoid actually violating those principles.

Is that right?

Brad Williams said...

Wowee. To get rid of gambling, we must needs be rid of the NFL and the stock market.

I had no idea.

I would have thought golf would be the first to go.

For the record, it is a bit embarrassing to see stock market investment continually compared to casino gambling. If you really think that stock market investment is the same as gambling, then you do not know what you are talking about. I'm serious. Seriously. I'm not kidding. Stop doing that.

Can you use the stock market to gamble and fritter away your money? Probably. But the underlying foundation for stock market and casinos is not in the same universe. Not that there is a multiverse. Just saying.

And for the record, I'm comin' at this in love, y'all.

For full disclosure, I bought a raffle ticket one time.

I also entered a sweepstakes this year while watching the Tour de France. I won a Cervelo S2 bicycle, outfitted with Dura Ace 7900 components. Booyah!

Jugulum said...

DJ,

So... You're saying something like the following?

In football, everyone pays the organization, and the organization gives everyone the prize. (The prize is getting to see the game.)

In gambling, everyone pays the organization, and the organization gives some people the prize. And the organization gives everyone the experience of playing the game.


Hmmm...

Justin said...

Jugulum,

Very good points. I think all to often we forget about either side of the equation, and just get involved in debates, while never seeking to build up.

Chad V.


"The fact that you would as a professing Christian teach a child to play poker is reprehensible."

really bro.?

Poker is not in and of itself evil. It is the motives behind it. If he teaches his child the analysis and percentages in the game, more power to him. But if uses the game build a sense of greed, pride, etc. in him than yes, it is reprehensible.

Johnny Dialectic said...

However, a corollary argument is that if the activity itself is sinful on matters of principle, then maybe it isn't the kind of hobby we ought to take up for sheer entertaimment--even if we devise a form of the game that mitigates it's most destructive features.

That's where I'm not clear. I don't think the "small scale" games described are "sinful on matters of principle."

I am totally with you on large scale, industry style gambling, and the support given thereto.

Johnny Dialectic said...

Chad, let me ask you this way:

Do you discern a moral difference between the entertainment value of a movie and the entertainment value of a board game? If it costs $10 for the first, and 25 cents for the second, and no one is coerced in either transaction, where is the "perversity"?

Obadiah said...

First off, hello, my name is Dane and I have been following this blog off and on for the past year or so. I find it so interesting to follow because some of the posts I fully agree with and some of the posts I fully disagree with. I typically do not post because it can easily digress into a "your-wrong-I'm-right" slugfest. Not saying this has, *yet*, but I have sensed some underlying hostility.

Anyway, I am posting to say that in this case it is important to point out that the source of the definitions of 'to gamble', 'stake', and 'prize'. As is the tendency with blogs it seems that the author plucked those definitions out of thin air and that can cause some serious issues especially when making the point that one of my occasional past times is indeed not entertainment but sin.

My response is this, abandon those definitions and use those from a central source, Webster's dictionary for example, otherwise the enter premise becomes a strawman fallacy. It allows the author to set up the definitions himself before immediately knocking them down. Webster's defines those three words as follows:
Gamble - intransitive verb 1a: to play a game for money or property
b: to bet on an uncertain outcome
2: to stake something on a contingency:take a chance
transitive verb
1: to risk by gambling:wager
2: venture, hazard

Stake -
3a: something that is staked for gain or loss
b: the prize in a contest
c: an interest or share in an undertaking or enterprise

Prize -
1: something offered or striven for in competition or in contests of chance; also:premium 1d
2: something exceptionally desirable

I suggest we work with these definitions as opposed to those above and then the debate (because that is inevitably what will result with this topic) will be grounded from the start.

Chad V. said...

Justin

Really bro. Rationalize it all you want...

DJP said...

Oh my gosh, Chad. You're a good brother, I think — but get a grip! You're going to throw down on this guy for teaching his kid a card game, as if he were taking him to whores or getting him drunk?

Dude, take deep breaths and back off a couple of steps.

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

Jugulum: "It looks like fee-based tournaments with prizes fit Phil's definition of gambling, yes."

Thanks Jugulum for giving an unambiguous response! I agree with you that entry fee tournament play certainly does look it fits Phil's definition of sinful gambling.

However, HOWEVER, this begs more serious questions. Questions such as: Is Phil's definition a good one whereby his interpretation and application of "biblical principles" would lead him to condemn entry-fee tournament play as sinful gambling? Will he modify his definition of gambling so as to exclude those activities as being sinful gambling, or will he maintain his definition of gambling which then leads him to condemn entry fee tournament play as sin, and thereby (perhaps unintentionally) position himself as a hardline judgmental fundamentalist on this issue?

Happily, we're now getting to the meat of the issue... the definitions themselves and the premises undergirding them.

To wit:

Jugulum writes: "That gives me a thought. I think I disagree with Phil's first definition."

D.J. Williams writs: "Johnson's premise is flawed. I'm proposing that #2 is the correct option."

Chad V. said...

Johnny

You said something about jumping all over the place?

D.J. Williams said...

Jugulum,

Yeah, that's a pretty good summary of my thought process right now.

Obadiah said...

Chad & Johnny
It seems apparent that the two of you will not agree and are getting closer to open hostility. The responsible thing to do would be to walk away.

Andrew said...

jugulum,
You lost me. I do not contend any sentence is dumb. Incorrect statements have been made. I called one of them out as follows:

"Going to an NFL game means “receiving a product bankrolled by other willing consumers”???"

If I hold a private piano recital at my home, and I am the only one in attendance, and I pay for it, then I myself "bankroll" it. Agree? Now if I invite 10 friends to come attend and they all chip WITH ME in to pay the pianist, are they all "bankrolling" the event for me?? NO. I paying my fair share for the entertainment rendered, as is everyone else. Furthermore, if Steinway (the piano manufacturer) sponsors the event, then the pianist earns even more money as a result, and Steinway builds name recognition and earns favor from all who attend (in the hopes of selling more pianos in the future).

This example parallels the NFL game more than a casino does. In a casino, the "entertainment" is wholly dependent upon the transfer of money between guests who are all trying to get the transfer to flow away from others in their direction (that is, they covet what God has not given them). With the NFL as with the piano recital, the guests are not coveting and seeking to obtain the wealth of each other nor that of the performers.

Jugulum said...

Chad,

That's what you say when you see someone rationalizing.

It's also what you say when you take an unsupportable position condemning things, when it can't stand up to examination. It's what you say in lieu of biblically-based reproof.

You think you're doing the first, but asking rhetorical questions about little-league poker without pointing to the biblical problem when you don't get the response you wanted is not a good way to live out 2 Tim. 3:16.

Darby Livingston said...

My point from the first post on this issue yesterday: "When we start extrapolating sins from a conglomerate of "biblical principles" because the Bible doesn't expressly forbid something, we run the same risk the Pharisees ran into. I'm not saying that risk isn't at times necessary and right, I'm just saying when we do it, we have to try very hard to be consistent. And that's where our natural blinders are going to excuse certain things while condemning others."

As this discussion drags on, my point is proving true. The reason everyone is talking around each other, and folks keep accusing others of not knowing what they're talking about is because we're trying to isolate one behavior as sinful based on "principles" that don't always apply to other behaviors.

Those who are comparing gambling to other forms of entertainment are not saying all points are identical. They're drawing some of the same "principles" from both. And those who are comparing gambling to the stock market are not saying all points are identical. They're drawing some of the same "principles" from both.

IOW, if gambling is wrong because it fosters idolatry, so does just about everything. If gambling is wrong because someone loses something, that happens in all sorts of situations. If gambling is wrong because it's poor stewardship, so is any number of other things. If gambling is wrong because it leads to crime, so does all sorts of other things. If gambling is wrong because it's a lust for money, so is a lot of legitimate work people do. I can't believe this point is so difficult for some in this comment stream to understand.

I don't think it's hard to understand these points, but it is hard to accept them because we want to be able to infer that gambling is wrong in spite of no clear biblical text to point to. And that opens us up to all the rest of these "distractions" like NFL, markets, etc.

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

Brad Williams: "To get rid of gambling, we must needs be rid of the NFL and the stock market."

I'm not hearing that.

But we do need to get some good and helpful definitions and distinctions on gambling, and although Phil has provided a good start here in this post, it's not sufficient.

A long ways to go yet, IMHO.

Jugulum said...

Darby,

I see the same thing, in the way some people are approaching this. Some bad arguments based on lack of careful distinction. (And I've seen some of that on both sides.)

But I really want to see how Phil puts things together. We shouldn't prejudge his case.

Darby Livingston said...

Agreed. Especially, because truth be told, I really really want him to be right.

Chad V. said...

DJP

Well, since you must gamble to play poker....... is poker the same as say... solitaire? Poker is more than just a card game isn't it? Maybe we could teach them roulette or craps while we're at it.

I have nothing against card games per se and I play them often but there is a reason that we don't start little league poker clubs isn't there?

Chad V. said...

Johnny

For the record, I have no hostility toward you at all. I just don't see what movies vs. board games has to do with wether gambling is wrong.

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

Jugulum: "But I really want to see how Phil puts things together."

Have you seen enough so far to retract your earlier position ("I take the view that gambling in small amounts for entertainment doesn't violate any Biblical principles.") or will you wait until the end?

P.S. Darby, your first comment on this thread is good. I thought it was really, really painfully obvious, but I guess until someone explicitly points it out (like you; thankfully), it really isn't obvious:

"Those who are comparing gambling to other forms of entertainment are not saying all points are identical. They're drawing some of the same "principles" from both." (boldface emphasis added).

Bulletin Bob said...

I've been reading through these posts looking for arguments and biblical perspectives on gambling because there's a move to open another casino in our area, this one in our neighborhood.

All I have to add at this point is to say to Darby (@10:57): Thank you!

Brad Williams said...

TUaD,

Thank goodness! The Steelers could win it all this year!

Johnny Dialectic said...

Chad, I agree. No hostility. I was trying to get at the same issue with a clarifying question...but maybe we are just talking past each other at the moment. Anyway, thanks for the interchange.

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

Brad Williams: "Thank goodness! The Steelers could win it all this year!"

Don't bet on it.

;-)

P.S. I do wonder, however, if Christians playing entry-fee fantasy football are committing the sin of gambling according to Phil Johnson and his definitions.

Phil Johnson said...

Jugulum: "Is that right?"

No. The two statements you quoted from me are saying the same thing, except that in the second one I used the word "maybe" to make a deliberate understatement. I thought it would be rather obvious that I believe if something is wrong on principle, it's wrong in any amount. The "maybe" was sarcastic.

Maybe I better just stick to being dogmatic.

But let me try again:

Granted, there are heinous sins and petty sins, but still, all sins are, by definition, sinful.

I'm trying to frame that in a way that avoids two opposite errors:

1. We are not to think petty sins don't really count and therefore don't actually need to be avoided. (e.g., "Gambling in small amounts s OK; it's only the big-ticket losses that are sinful.")

2. Still, we don't need to insist that penny-ante poker is just as sinful as high-stakes roulette in order to make the point that it's not a healthy pastime.

Jugulum said...

TUaD,

No, not yet. We'll see.

The arguments from the commenters haven't convinced me, either. (Though I see a possible case for avoiding casinos--even for small-scale entertainment--because of the addiction & abuse & ruin that goes on.)


Phil,

OK, thanks.

(It wasn't just the "maybe" that made me ask. The second quote looked like it had the form of "This activity has bad associations, so we should avoid it even if we remove the destructive elements." But I see the difference. Sorry.)

Phil Johnson said...

TUAD: "But we do need to get some good and helpful definitions and distinctions on gambling, and although Phil has provided a good start here in this post, it's not sufficient."

(By the way, I didn't make those definitions up or set them forth as my own novel ideas. Those are technical definitions. There's a reason the government regulates gambling, and many forms of entertainment don't qualify as "gambling" in legal terms.)

The problem is not that my definitions are unclear or "insufficient" but that some of the inane comments that have been posted ignore the fact that definitions even are on the table.

To wit:

Question: "why do we treat gambling differently from other forms of entertainment that offer nothing tangible in return for our money"

Answer: "With football, there's no stake." Bingo. See? The answer to that question was right there in the definitions all along.

Rejoinder: "Perhaps not in a monetary sense, but the entertainment that comes from watching the football game is funded in the exact same way."

Yikes.

That's why this conversation is so muddled.

And there's more such nonsense yet to come, I'm sure.

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

Jugulum: "But I really want to see how Phil puts things together."

Me too. One of the things I'd like to see is whether Phil's definitions and distinctions on gambling condones (says that it's okay) for a bi-vocational pastor to day-trade in order to help make a living.

Dale Fincher said...

Not really convinced that the four criteria is actually relates to stealing nor that those criteria are ALWAYS a problem. Need more of an argument to bridge that gap to render gambling as evil, per se.

Moving money around without an increase to the economic wealth of a community happens all the time. We may not like it and it may be bad economics, but it may not be immoral, per se. If it was immoral, more Christians would be guilty of tax evasion.

John T. Meche III said...

If I go to a baseball game, and they select one ticket holder at random to win a prize, should I reject the prize? You could say that I paid for the entertainment of the baseball game, and the prize is a cursory issue, but then you're back to the old entertainment argument. One person wins the random prize. Everyone pays admission to the game.

Phil Johnson said...

John T. Meche III:

Here's another couple of definitions for you:

Sweepstakes

Notice the distinction between what that word usually means in the UK (connoting a prize for gambling) and how it's normally used in the US (connoting a non-gambling prize).

That is the key difference between gambling and a legitimate (and sometimes semi-legitimate) promotion that is funded as a marketing cost--which is what your baseball-game door prize would be.

Jugulum said...

Phil,

Re: "no stake" and muddled definitions

I will be very interested to see how your principles show that the stake is an important difference between gambling-for-entertainment and the NFL or fee-tournaments.

I.e., I want to see how it's OK for a group of people to pay money to play a game with no stake, but it becomes wrong for the same group to pay the same money to play the same game--just by directing the fee into a prize.

D.J. Williams said...

John T. Meche III said...
"If I go to a baseball game, and they select one ticket holder at random to win a prize, should I reject the prize? You could say that I paid for the entertainment of the baseball game, and the prize is a cursory issue, but then you're back to the old entertainment argument. One person wins the random prize. Everyone pays admission to the game."

Exactly. I was thinking of that myself.

The more I think about this, the more I'm convinced that simply saying "there's no stake" isn't sufficient (all due respect to Johnson). That's why I'm interested to see where his next post takes this. I'll do my best to offer more inane nonsense after that one as well.

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

FWIW, I'm leaning towards Professor John Frame's assessment:

"In his massive book on The Doctrine of the Christian Life, John Frame argues that gambling is often wrong, but not always. He says gambling can be linked to the worship of chance; it can be addictive; it can involve covetousness; it can be a waste of time and money; it can be thought of as a substitute for useful work; and it can fall under the control of organized crime. So although Frame doesn’t think gambling is sinful in all circumstances it “is often or generally sinful, given the conditions in which we live” (806-807)."

Phil Johnson said...

You know, I just read this post again after reading the comment-thread and it seems to me 2/3 (I'm being conservative) of the questions and arguments set forth in the comment-thread are answered by the post itself.


D. J. Williams: "The more I think about this, the more I'm convinced that simply saying "there's no stake" isn't sufficient (all due respect to Johnson)"

What you're saying is that you think you have a different, more accurate definition of gambling. So fork it over. This post is about definitions, not about someone's personal feelings. (Not a very postmodern approach, I know.) But let's be clear about what I am doing here:

This second post in the series defines in specific terms what I mean when I speak of gambling. If you insist on imposing your own made-up definition on the posts yet to come, you aren't going to have a clue what I'm talking about, and you will find yourself arguing about issues not even germane to the discussion.

(Which seems to be a problem of epidemic proportions already.)

John T. Meche III said...

Phil, the concept of the sweepstakes makes things even more muddled. How far do we remove the pay from the prize before it stops being gambling? It's my ticket purchase that is enabling them to strike a deal with Coca Cola where they give away "for free" the new laptop to one person at the game. What the house takes the losers money and does with it in order to provide a prize seems of little interest with regard to whether it is gambling or not.

This whole issue seems saturated with terribly convenient distinctions. It may be greed that motivates Charlee to buy chocolate bar after chocolate bar to find the golden ticket. Gambling?

Barbara said...

Question:

Is lottery-funded college scholarship money (like the HOPE in Georgia) "dirty"? Is it sinful for a student to have his/her tuition covered by this if he/she qualifies?

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

Jugulum to Phil: "I will be very interested to see how your principles show that the stake is an important difference between gambling-for-entertainment and the NFL or fee-tournaments.

I.e., I want to see how it's OK for a group of people to pay money to play a game with no stake, but it becomes wrong for the same group to pay the same money to play the same game--just by directing the fee into a prize."


The phrase "how your principles" recalls my earlier comment @ 10:49am:

"Is Phil's definition a good one whereby his interpretation and application of "biblical principles" would lead him to condemn entry-fee tournament play as sinful gambling? Will he modify his definition of gambling so as to exclude those activities as being sinful gambling, or will he maintain his definition of gambling which then leads him to condemn entry fee tournament play as sin, and thereby (perhaps unintentionally) position himself as a hardline judgmental fundamentalist on this issue?"

Tom Chantry said...

So far: Phil has said, "I don't think gambling is biblical: here's how I define gambling...more to come."

250 comments.

Just sayin'.

Phil Johnson said...

Meche III: ". . . terribly convenient distinctions. . . "

That's really rich, given that every careful distinction I have made has been conveniently ignored.

"It may be greed that motivates Charlee to buy chocolate bar after chocolate bar to find the golden ticket. Gambling?"

Is a stake invloved? (See defs. 1 & 2). No? Then it's not "gambling."

Is greed a wrong motive? Yes. But the presence of greed doesn't turn a purchase into "gambling." The definitions above would make that clear, should anyone desire to actually interact with them.

Phil Johnson said...

Tom Chantry:

Thanks. It's good to know someone is paying attention.

Tom Chantry said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tom Chantry said...

You're welcome. I just looked up Proverbs 18:13. It's the best commentary on most internet discourse I've ever seen.