In the UK and America there are a multitude of ways to gamble. Exorbitant sums of money are involved with respective governments receiving substantial income in the form of taxes. Socially, gambling has been exposed to opposition morally and singled out legally as a corrupt trait in some societies. Never the less gambling continues to rise as a major form of relaxation and as a way either, legally or illegally, of making money.
As long as there have been human beings gambling, or games of chance as they are commonly known, has been in existence. It was around the mid thirteenth century that dice first came to prominence in Greece, although a similar form of entertainment was used by the Ancient Egyptians called “Knuckle bones.” Playing cards were first attributed to China in the ninth or tenth century. They were then taken up by Europeans in the fourteenth century, probably Italy, using a pack with 78 cards. It was a hundred years later before the standard pack of 52 cards became accepted as the norm. But as well as these games, betting on sports such as horse racing and dog and cock fighting enjoyed popular appeal. In all of us there is a the appeal of winning money for little or no effort but, there are still mixed feelings toward the various forms of gambling available today.
Religion is prominent in many societies today. In some it is more dominant than politics and influences many of the decisions governments make. In fact many religions condemn gambling. Although Catholic countries were the first to start playing lotteries seriously. It is the fact that gambling can be attributed to greed and corruption and can be the downfall of many that fosters the beliefs of the anti-gambling faction. Gambling has also been linked to alcoholism with many games of chance taking place in public houses. The fact that drinking alcohol can also be associated with violence and lust does nothing to help the pro gambling lobby. The fact also that there are winners and losers with the winners gains offset by the loser’s losses (although the poker games I have played in this never works out!).
Here in the UK things are a bit more relaxed. Have a look at these figures:
8% of adults play bingo
11% of adults use licensed betting shops
62% of all households play the National Lottery on a Saturday
33% play on a Wednesday
The above figures were taken from Social Trends 1998 so today those figures could be considerably more. John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist Church, had forthright views on gambling. He said “that a Christian should be a steward of money and not own it” and “money should not be gained through means which could harm one’s neighbour” i.e. pawnbroking or charging excessive interest on loans.
Not everybody connected with religion has taken such a stance. The soon to be Anglican Bishop of Exeter, Robert Mortimer, said in 1933 that not all forms of gambling were immoral. He actually did some research into the various forms and decided that some forms of gambling were a “legitimate indulgence” which no institution had the right to ban completely.
In 1948 an international congress of Anglican Bishops were concerned about the after effects of gambling on not just gamblers but their families as well. In fact, when Premium Bonds were first introduced in 1956, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Geoffrey Fisher, condemned them as private gain divorced from responsibility.” This was backed up by the then shadow Chancellor, Harold Wilson, as a”squalid raffle.”
Many governments now take a back seat when it comes to deciding issues on gambling, realising than prohibition would condemn the problem to underground activities, therefore losing revenue.
One more point in gambling’s favour. As early as 1569 it was used as a means of raising funds for public projects.
So there it is, not all forms of gambling are bad.In fact some are quite therapeutic. As long as indulgences are not taken to excess there is not much harm done. It is when gambling takes over one’s life that problems arise. The motto is “know your limits and stay safe”.