Is gambling a sin? Is it immoral? The definition of sin, from a theological position, this essay leaves to the theologians, and the ultimate value of gambling it leaves to the conscience of the individual. It examines, rather, the nature and result of gambling from the economic viewpoint. This we feel can be of practical help to both theologian and layman in clarifying their personal concepts.

Gambling is a timely topic. Not only is its influence growing on a commercialized scale in our economy, but some political leaders are even proposing a national lottery. Such a lottery, they say, would provide people an opportunity to exercise their “natural” proclivity for gambling. The argument is supposedly strengthened by their advocating that the proceeds be used to reduce the national debt. This is indeed a captivating “package deal,” one that combines legalizing “natural” human inclination with a desired national objective. It almost tempts one to lump G. B. Shaw’s explanation of the popularity of marriage with the adage that two can live as cheaply as one.

Like most other package deals, this one requires careful study. Actually we need to examine only one component, however. We need not debate the desirability of retiring the national debt. If it is a bad thing to retire the debt, then, of course, there is no point in discussing methods. If it is a good thing, then we need to examine carefully the method under consideration. After all, if we were not concerned about means and their short- and long-run effects, we could well justify war, infanticide, or genocide as solutions for overpopulation. This brings us to the issue at hand.

What is gambling? The proponents of legalized or commercialized gambling often say that life itself ...

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