Young People Ask . . .
Is Gambling Really So Bad?
TWELVE-YEAR-OLD Andrew and ten-year-old Julian were finally out of their parents’ sight. Their family was taking a boat trip, and the boys had become fascinated by the various gambling machines on board. Noting their curiosity, a player gave each of them a coin so they could try the machines for themselves. The problem? Their parents had forbidden them to go near those machines.
Nevertheless, Andrew and Julian decided to take the risk. Their parents’ warnings ringing in their ears, they played the machine—and doubled their money! Then they played again. This time they were astounded at the amount of winnings that poured out! ‘How can this be so dangerous?’ they thought. ‘It is so easy to make money! Is gambling really so bad?’
Like many youths in lands where gambling is common, Andrew and Julian saw little harm in it. This is easy to understand when you consider the example some adults have set in this regard. Many not only gamble but offer plausible excuses to justify their habit. They will say, for example, that gambling actually does much good, pointing to financial handouts from lotteries that help worthy causes. (But this makes no more sense than arguing that a donation from a drug baron to charity justifies the drug trade!) Yet others claim that gambling is harmless fun and entertainment, adding a measure of welcome excitement to life.
At any rate, in Britain and Ireland, as in other lands, thousands of youths have become gamblers. And the prospect of making a lot of money with little effort may very well have some appeal to you.
Gambling—The Hidden Dangers
Nevertheless, gambling poses some very real dangers to young people. Reports speak of “gambling junkies” and “the horrors that gambling can bring, when a harmless game grows into a compulsion that can turn a person into a zombie.” According to The Buzz (a British television documentary), gambling among children “may lead to truanting, violence, extortion and theft, compulsive gambling and prostitution and, in extreme cases, suicide or attempted suicide.” That gambling really has such potential for disaster is proved by real-life experiences.
“I started gambling when I was about 11 years old,” says Adrian. “I went with my uncle and cousin to greyhound races. To begin with I was quite lucky and often won.” The effect on Adrian? “I had no hesitation in spinning a story—lying—to my dad in order to get money,” he explains, “and before I was out of my teens, I had no compunction about stealing from the till in my dad’s shop to finance my gambling habit.”
Adrian points to another undesirable effect. “You can easily become an idler,” he explains, “because the money you earn through honest labor may seem a pittance in comparison with what you think you can win.”—Compare Proverbs 13:4; Ecclesiastes 2:24.
Robert (not his real name) started gambling at 12 years of age. He points to yet another danger: “You can get very superstitious.” He explains: “My father had gambling machines in our shop. I knew exactly how they worked, and yet I superstitiously did things to try to affect the outcome, such as pushing the switch in a certain manner or leaving the winnings in the tray for some time. Some people actually talked to the machines.” Yes, many gamblers unwittingly become superstitious worshipers of the god of good luck—a practice condemned by God.—Isaiah 65:11.
Another insidious danger is the tendency for gambling to become a virtual obsession. “Over 2,000 children under 16 are taken by their parents to Gamblers Anonymous every year, and the present rate of referrals . . . in Britain are thought to be just the tip of the iceberg.” (The Buzz) How addicted can they get? Said one report: “Once hooked, they must gamble whether they are winning or losing.”
Robert remembers seeing one woman gamble away £90 ($140, U.S.) every day. One young gambler was so desperate to get money to feed his obsession with fruit machines, as slot machines are often called in Britain, that he tried to murder his mother! Paddy, who started gambling at a very young age, had a similar inability to control his gambling habit. “I was raised in a gambling family,” he recalls. “I would gamble on anything and everything. When I grew up and got married, gambling took food from my wife and children, and it eventually brought me to the point of suicide.”
The Lure of the Slot Machines
Any form of gambling can produce such dire results, but one of the biggest dangers for young people today is the slot machine. This is “currently regarded as the biggest problem concerning young gamblers,” says Journal of Gambling Behavior, Spring 1989. These machines, well described as one-armed bandits, are “subtle and seductive devices,” says The Buzz. “The more you play, the more you are likely to want to play.”
Is there any sense at all in playing a game, however seductive it might be, where the odds are fixed to guarantee that you will virtually always lose more than you win? Young People Now described your chances of winning this way: “Never give a sucker an even break, goes the saying. Fruit machines don’t . . . [If] you put £10.00 in a machine on average it will keep £7.00 and give you £3.00 back.”
No wonder Mark Griffiths, researcher into the effects of gambling on young people, states: “The only way to make money out of a fruit machine is to own one.” Does it seem reasonable to you to get involved in such futile activity?
Nevertheless, these machines are cleverly designed to hook you into playing more. How? By showing three lines of fruit symbols instead of just the winning line! Young People Now explains: “The lines above and below the payout lines are shown to give players the illusion that they ‘just missed’ and so encourage them to have another go.” The so-called near-miss, two winning symbols and a third losing one, is often seen by the gambler as a “near-win,” and so he is encouraged to try again—and again, and again.
But this is typical of the gambling business. Manufacturers design machines and gambling games in such a way as to provide the illusion that instead of having lost, you have had a near-miss! You nearly won! This conditions you to keep playing because of the high you experience having come so close to “winning.” Add to this the flashing lights and mesmerizing sound effects, and you begin to get some idea of the powerful psychological pressures being used to entice you to play—to keep playing—and to keep losing.
Making the Right Decision
The best way to avoid becoming a compulsive gambler, then, is to avoid gambling in the first place. Avoid it in all its forms, including the betting of small amounts of money. Many a life-long gambling habit has begun by gambling pennies. And if the opportunity to gamble presents itself, consider the principle Jesus Christ stated at Matthew 7:17: “Every good tree produces fine fruit, but every rotten tree produces worthless fruit.”
Think about it: What does gambling really produce in people’s lives? Does it help one develop the fruits of God’s spirit, such as joy, peace, and self-control, or does it generate strife, fits of anger, and greed? (Galatians 5:19-23) Remember, greed is condemned by God. Just one greedy act could make you reprehensible in his eyes. Ask yourself if gamblers are fitting association for Christian youths. (1 Corinthians 15:33) Remember that “the whole world is lying in the power of the wicked one.” (1 John 5:19) Does not gambling clearly serve the purpose of Satan the Devil? So why be seduced into getting involved in it?
When Ireland’s national lottery was first introduced, it was quickly dubbed a tax on idiots! That about sums it up. Who wants to be taken for a fool and robbed of needed resources by being seduced into the dreamworld of the gambler? Fortunately, Andrew and Julian (mentioned at the outset) saw in time that gambling is a fool’s game. They clearly see its dangers and avoid it. “Anyhow,” they say, “there are much more worthwhile things to do in life than waste your money gambling.”
[Picture on page 20]
Gambling for even small amounts of money can get one hooked