Is it OK to bet? (Q&A 86)


by Ram Ritho

Q. Hi! Been meaning to ask about gambling like in these Sportpesa and Betin thingies… Is it wrong or sinful or immoral to gamble?  Or can gambling be considered harmless fun if done in moderation?
A. Yes. Gambling or betting or games of chance (card games, etc.) or wagers have no moral objections if done in moderation.

Q. Phew! Happy to hear that! I’m one of those guys caught up in this Sportpesa craze…
A. As are many of my friends

Q. But I guess the question then becomes what is gambling in “moderation”?
A. The Church uses the effects of gambling as a test as to whether gambling was moral or immoral.

Q. Details, please… 
A. So: gambling, waging and betting only become morally unacceptable when they deprive someone of what is necessary to provide for his needs and those of others (who depend on him): for example, if as a husband and father I gamble away money meant to buy food or to pay school fees, then that could very easily be a grevious sin (of injustice to my family). Or if I’m still “single and free to mingle” but my betting or gambling becomes addictive that I waste time I’m meant to spend working or praying or with my family, or else it becomes so addictive that I even steal from my family or cheat my friends to find a source to feed my gambling addiction, then in such a case that gambling could be venially or mortally sinful. Or else I delay paying my debts to suppliers or friends who gave me a soft loan because I’m using that money to gamble… Most of these cases are also doubly immoral because of the scandal they cause.

Unfair wagers and cheating at games constitute grave matter, unless the damage inflicted is so slight that the one who suffers it cannot reasonably consider it significant.

Q. So basically it sounds like you’re saying gambling is ok as long as you don’t go against justice or the duties you owe especially to others.
A. Correct.

Q. So Sportpesa is ok?
A. In principle yes.

Q. Day made! 

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