The number of people who visited the city of Las Vegas in 2005 (38.6 million) exceeds the entire population of Canada! What’s more, in 2004 Vegas visitors spent a whopping $33.7 billion—the equivalent of more than $92.3 millionper day—for total expenses, including food, lodging and various forms of “entertainment”! About a fourth of it was spent on gambling.
Las Vegas oozes with prosperity and lavish opulence. A staggering 16 of the 20 largest hotels in the world are located in that city! The newest one opened in April 2005 with a mind-numbing construction cost of $747,943 per room!
Driving along the famous Las Vegas strip at night, one is awe-struck by the dazzling display of alluring lights. The hotels and casinos glisten with a brightness that masquerades as broad daylight—in stark contrast to the reality of the dark sky overhead. Impressive are the structures cast in various motifs, including a stunning Florentine palace, a magnificent white castle, Egypt’s pyramids, Paris’s Eiffel Tower, ancient Rome, Venice, New York City, tropical and island oases, Arabian nights, swashbuckling pirates and much more.
The city boasts about 133,000 hotel rooms with a year-round occupancy rate of about 90 percent. Almost 3.7 million passengers per month travel through its international airport, and many of them come with a dream—to strike it rich. But the overwhelming majority of visitors are not the ones getting rich. In 2005, Las Vegas casinos, after payouts to winners, took in an average of almost $27 million per day in gross gambling revenue.
An Escalating Trend
In the United States, prior to 1990, only Las Vegas and Atlantic City had legal casinos. Today, casinos are legal in 36 states. The government began to actively promote gambling in 1964 when New Hampshire conducted the first state lottery. Today, state lotteries have become a source of government money in 41 states plus the District of Columbia. In one form or another—whether it be casino “gaming,” state lotteries, horse racing, dog racing, bingo or whatever—gambling is now legal in 48 of America’s 50 states. Utah and Hawaii are the only exceptions.
Gambling in the U.S. has reached an unprecedented level of acceptance. According to www.family.org, nationwide gross gambling revenue, after winner payouts, was $72.9 billion in 2003—more money than Americans spent on movie tickets, theme parks, spectator sports and video games combined! But Americans are not the only ones smitten with the urge to gamble.
Britain has roughly one fifth of the U.S. population, yet the British are now spending about the same amount on gambling as Americans do. According to the Global Betting and Gaming Consultants (gbgc), gambling revenue in Britain skyrocketed, in just three years, from £8 billion to £40 billion (us$75 billion) in the 12 months ending September 2004! One reason is that Internet gambling has boomed in Britain, rising 566 percent between 2003 and 2005 (Agence France Presse, Jan. 30, 2005). This dramatic growth is largely due to an increase in women gamblers. YouGov pollsters estimate that 80 percent of online gamblers in Europe are British, and 30 to 40 percent of online British gamblers are women. The largest online gambling firms are based in the UK, and, in fact, the UK will host the world’s first international summit on online gaming this fall.
In Australia, more than 80 percent of adults gamble, and they spend more money on gambling, per capita, than any other nation in the world. At least 40 percent gamble a minimum of once a week! While Australia has a population of only 20 million, the famed Australian “pokies” (poker slot machines) accounted for 21 percent of all the gambling machines in the world, as of 1999. According to Prof. Bo Bernhard, director of gambling research at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas and world-renowned gambling expert, “Australia has a real issue with problem gambling. … I like to tell my students that Las Vegas is the Australia of the United States” (Daily Telegraph, Sydney, Australia, Nov. 13, 2004).
Around the world, gambling is a fast-growing enterprise. gbgc calculates that gamblers worldwide lost a total of $208 billion in 2003—an average of almost $570 million a day! While the personal financial losses are astounding, there are a host of other problems that spring up from the gambling craze.
Some Side Effects
As gambling opportunities become more commonplace, addiction to gambling increases. So stated the National Gambling Impact Study Commission (ngisc) final report issued on June 18, 1999—the first comprehensive report of gambling’s effects in the U.S. in 23 years. It affirmed the norc (National Opinion Research Center) finding that “the presence of a gambling facility within 50 miles roughly doubles the prevalence of problem and pathological gamblers.”
A compulsive gambler becomes obsessed with gambling to the point that it absorbs all his other interests to the detriment of his family and friends. He is pathologically hopeful about winning but can’t stop gambling if he does win. If he wins, he wants to win more. If he loses, he tries to win back his losses—and the more he loses, the more he’s sure he’ll win the next time! The addicted gambler will eventually risk more than he can afford. That leads to other problems.
Gambling increases crime. Desperate to recover gambling losses, some highly regarded and trusted employees resort to embezzlement and fraud. According to the National Research Council, “As access to money becomes more limited, gamblers often resort to crime in order to pay debts, appease bookies, maintain appearances, and garner more money to gamble” (ibid.). Violent crimes also go up. According to the National Coalition Against Legalized Gambling (ncalg), after casinos were introduced in Atlantic City, total crimes in the city tripled in just three years and the per capita crime rate shot up from 50th in the nation to first (www.ncalg.org).
Usually, within three to five years of a newly opened gambling market, some residents who have become compulsive gamblers, rather than resort to crime, will file for bankruptcy to gain relief from creditors. One study confirmed that personal bankruptcy rates are twice as high in counties with casinos than in counties without (www.ncalg.org). That impacts all the residents in those counties, because businesses will typically recover those losses from the rest of the consumers.
Gambling can so consume a person that it leads to loss of productivity on the job and subsequent unemployment. Roughly one fourth to one third of gamblers treated in Gamblers Anonymous report losing a job because of a gambling problem (ngisc report). Sadly, some end up homeless. “In a survey of 1,100 clients at dozens of Rescue Missions across the United States, 18 percent cited gambling as a cause of their homelessness. Interviews with more than 7,000 homeless individuals in Las Vegas revealed that 20 percent reported a gambling problem” (ngisc report).
In addition to these hardships, gamblers are regularly exposed to sexual vices. The gambling venue is often a racy, sensuous and hedonistic environment connected to sexual lewdness, prostitution, fornication and adultery; offering repeated temptations to a discouraged gambler. More than likely, the family of a gambling addict bears a lot of emotional damage, often culminating in domestic violence, child neglect and/or divorce.
The life of a compulsive gambler is miserable, and a gambling addiction is so gripping and depressive that “the suicide rate among pathological gamblers is higher than for any other addictive disorder” (ibid.). One study revealed that 20 to 30 percent of addicted gamblers surveyed attempted suicide (www.ncalg.org).
You may be thinking, yes, it’s too bad that some people can’t control their urge to gamble, but most people are not addicted to it. So what’s wrong with having a little fun?
Gambling Is Always Wrong
The Apostle Paul said he did not know that to covet was sin until it was revealed to him by God’s law (Romans 7:7). That law is simply an expression of how God lives and how He wants us to live. Keeping His law is a way of life—actions and thoughts—that builds godly character.
Do you gamble? If you do and are honest with yourself, do you not gamble hoping to “hit the jackpot”? And is that not founded on a desire—a lust—for easy money? Beware of that attitude! God warns that “the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows” (1 Timothy 6:10, New King James Version).
Gambling in any form exploits a character flaw because it is motivated by greed. Notice carefully what educator Herbert W. Armstrong wrote: “Coveting money and that which money will buy is merely the manner of manipulating Satan’s way of life—‘get’ instead of ‘give’—take and compete instead of cooperate—self-concern and self-gain with desire to win, instead of love toward God and love toward neighbor” (Good News, September 1986). Let’s apply this principle specifically to gambling.
If you “win,” you’ve done so at the expense of someone else. A genuine spirit of love desires that every person receive his rightful due. For example, for every lottery winner sensationalized in the media, there are millions of unheralded losers who will never recover what they gamble. And many of them are financially disadvantaged. Studies prove that the poor, less-educated and the young are disproportionately enticed to gamble. They are more vulnerable and susceptible to “getting hooked.” So even though they voluntarily participate, does it make it right to take money from them? Does it make it right to participate in a system that preys on their plight? God condemns it! (see Proverbs 28:20; Amos 5:11 and Ephesians 5:5-7).
Granted, not all types of gambling—like bingo—have the potential for a huge payout. It’s still wrong. All forms of gambling encourage the principle of trying to get something for nothing. And that is not God’s way! That kind of thinking, no matter how small, stifles the character trait of productive effort (see Proverbs 13:11).
When the something-for-nothing concept gets lodged in our minds, it undermines the work ethic—especially in our young people, who are five times more likely to have gambling problems than adults. It erodes the propensities to work, save and invest in education and training because it promotes the idea that luck or chance lead to success instead of wise choices. We must all learn that life is not a gamble if we obey God’s law and follow His way of life. Then all risk is removed and one can be assured of success. Please request our free booklet The Seven Laws of Success. All who have truly succeeded have followed these seven laws!
Gamblers Always Lose
People start gambling for various reasons. Some few say they have too much leisure time and a lack of excitement in their lives so they seek “adventure” through gambling—perhaps fascinated by and attracted to the risk involved. Others are drawn in by new gambling facilities introduced into their neighborhood or seduced by advertising campaigns that promise instant wealth and instant happiness to boot. The implication is, “This could be your way out.” Some have financial problems and are attracted by the possibility of winning a large sum of money. Their lust for money outweighs any moral considerations.
Compulsive gamblers are enticed by a fantasy: In their minds they are just one turn of the cards, one spin of the wheel or one roll of the dice away from a dream world where everything will be wonderful. It’s a way to escape from their responsibilities. They feel emotionally comfortable and secure when they are “in action.” Also, they usually have a strong desire to be a “big shot.” They spend a lot of time thinking about all the great things they are going to do as soon as they hit the jackpot. But it’s a never-ending quest.
“When compulsive gamblers succeed, they gamble to dream still greater dreams. When failing, they gamble in reckless desperation and the depths of their misery are fathomless as their dream world comes crashing down. Sadly, they will struggle back, dream more dreams, and of course suffer more misery. No one can convince them that their great schemes will not someday come true. They believe they will. For without this dream world, life for them would not be tolerable” (www .gamblersanonymous.org, emphasis mine).
Compulsive gamblers have emotional problems. Those who tend to flee from reality have pronounced levels of emotional insecurity and immaturity. Nevertheless, the reasons people start gambling always include a certain degree of lust for money, prizes or recognition.
The bottom line is that any and all forms of gambling corrode our character to one extent or another—and that’s why gamblers always lose, even when money is won (seldom as that is). They find that they have problems that no amount of money or winnings will resolve. Genuine happiness still eludes them.
You don’t have to be ensnared by that kind of false hope. There is a way out!
The God Family Vision
“If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable” (1 Corinthians 15:19). Your real potential lies beyond this physical life. You need to have the vision of your future in the Family of God burning in your bosom and work now toward attaining it—like Abraham did. He looked forward to receiving the promise, which included the vision of a remarkable city (Hebrews 11:10), a stupendouslybeautiful city with massive gates made of pearls and streets paved with the most superb gold, “the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven [to be placed on Earth] from God”! (Revelation 21:10).
“The twelve gates were twelve pearls: each individual gate was of one pearl. And the street of the city was pure gold, like transparent glass” (verse 21, New King James Version). It is a stunning sight, sparkling with a dazzling array of pure gold and the finest precious stones in its walls and construction (verses 18-20). Imagine that! “The city had no need of the sun or of the moon to shine in it, for the glory of God [the Father] illuminated it. The Lamb [Jesus Christ] is its light” (verse 23, New King James Version). What magnificent splendor!
This is the real “city of lights”! Las Vegas is but a cheap imitation, a veritable junkyard in comparison! In this city, however, there is no gambling allowed. The wonderful thing about it is: No one will want to gamble anyway. Everyone will be fully satisfied—full of joy and contentment. Can you even begin to grasp what God has in store for you? You need to read our free book The God Family Vision. It’s a message about bringing God’s government, peace and joy to the whole universe! It’s the only message that will fill you with hope!