Gambling –Is it Right or Wrong
Gambling has been around forever, and I am sure it has always been a controversial issue. History and ethnography show us that, across societies of the past and present, gambling varies considerably with respect to its organization, social meanings, and how it is regarded in moral terms. (Binde,2005). Since the time when the guards for Jesus cast lots for his clothes, when Las Vegas was built and now today with the availability of online gambling, this issue has caused concern and had its supporters and opponents.
While done responsibly, gambling can be a fun and sometimes rewarding activity. On the other hand it can be a huge problem for some. Gambling is very addictive and can lead to many problems for those who become addicted. People have been known to empty their bank accounts, lose their homes, destroy relationships, and even turn to crime, because of gambling. In this paper I will explore the many types of gambling, both sides of the ethical problems of gambling and how it affects us, and how classical theory can be applied to solve those problems.
I will also show how relativism applies to the problem and how I feel about the matter myself. There are many types of gambling that occur daily. These include the lottery, horse and dog racing, sports betting, bingo, casino gambling, and the newest and most popular online gambling.
There also people that gamble with their friends, and probably many underground betting places and options. There are billions of dollars bet in the United States every year and this number continues to grow. There is even more money exchanged worldwide. Casinos are no longer just restricted to Las Vegas. They are popping up all over the country in many states. There are casinos built on Indian reservations, some on boats in the water near coastlines, at least one on every cruise ship, and that is just in the United States. I live close to the border between Michigan and Canada, and there is a casino just across the border in Sarnia and Windsor, Ontario. Almost every state has some form of lottery and now anyone with a computer and online access can gamble in a multitude of different ways. It is very easy for almost anyone to gamble every day of the week. Many bettors have bookies for sporting events and many people participate in betting pools that are for weekly football games, basketball tournaments and other events. There are also betting squares that come up around Super Bowl time and is centered around betting on the score of the game.
The bottom line is you can pretty much bet on anything in sports any day of the week. Gambling is all around us and the ease of access is incredible and almost unbelievable. Due to the fact that is very easy and very addicting there is often controversy whether gambling is right, because it can be fun and exciting, or wrong because it can make people act irresponsibly at times and sometimes even out of control. There are many people that can enjoy gaming and be responsible on how they do it. These people may buy a lottery ticket now and then or maybe play the same lottery number everyday. There are some that go to the casino and take an amount of money that to them is disposable income. They go in with the idea that they are probably going to lose, but if they win or break even, they have had a fun and exciting experience for free, or they won and made money. They stay for a certain time allotment and leave whether they win or lose. I don’t think there are too many opponents to someone gambling recreationally and responsibly. The problem lies in the fact that once you do win at any form of gambling, it can become addictive. That breeds our problem. Many people become addicted to the sensation of winning and cannot stop gambling. There have been many people who lose their life savings, college funds, cars, houses, and families because they cannot stop gambling even if they continue to lose. They live for the euphoria of winning and always expect to win back what they have lost. These irresponsible gamblers sometimes even turn to crime to get more money to gamble with. There have been people that stole from friends and family and those that embezzle money and those that steal anything to sell to get money. There are many gambling support groups that help these people as well as church groups and government assistance.
The supporters of gambling say that it allows people to have a fun and exciting experience with the thrill of anticipation and the great feeling of winning. Gambling also brings in a large amount of revenue for governments, and creates a lot of jobs at all the places that allow gambling especially casinos. The amount of tourism created by a casino can bring business to restaurants, hotels, shopping centers and other businesses that are near. That can create more jobs and higher property values. This can increase sales tax as well.
The revenues are supposedly used for noble causes such as schools, health care, police and fire funding and roads. They say that most people are responsible gamblers and that addiction is only a problem with a small percentage. Many Indian reservations that have casinos on their property have prospered and found work for their people and property values increase. Casinos have been a great economic benefit for Native American tribes. The tribes see casinos as a way out of poverty and unemployment. For example, Foxwoods Resort Casino in Ledyard, Connecticut is the state’s second-largest employer. (Oddo, 1997) The opponents of gambling say that the money raised doesn’t always go toward those noble causes mentioned above. It is diverted somewhere else and only a portion of the money goes to the proper place. With as many lottery tickets I see purchased every day and the conditions of our roads and schools here in Michigan, I think the naysayers may have a point. They say the crime rate increases in areas near gambling establishments Prostitution and loan sharking come to mind, as well as theft and embezzlement. Another point they make is that casinos often take disposable income from other areas of entertainment. Legalized gambling is also bad governmental policy. Government should promote public virtue, not seduce its citizens to gamble in state-sponsored vice. (Anderson, Kirby, 2005). The point of view that the minister who wrote this article is trying to get across is that the government should be looking to keep money in its citizen’s pockets and not take it out by sponsoring lotteries and legalizing gambling.
There are also the millions of compulsive gamblers that we talked about earlier whose lives get crushed because of their addiction. They not only affect themselves economically, but often have marital problems, alcohol, or drug abuse problems, and family and social problems. There is also the subject of organized crime and how it is connected to the gambling world as well. The opponents speculate that there a lot of not so good things that happen behind the scenes at the casinos, sports books, and race tracks. Many say that there are a lot of false promises given to communities regarding lower taxes and great economic development if casinos are present in their area. This is not always the case with the classic example being Atlantic City, New Jersey. The area around the boardwalk casino area is high in crime and low in property value and the taxes are higher now than before the casinos were built. So how do we solve this dilemma? If we choose to apply a classical theory to the problem, I think the one that applies the best would be virtue ethics. Virtue ethics is distinct from both utilitarianism and deontology. Rather than focusing on the consequences of the act we wish to evaluate, or the reason or rule that guides the action, we look at the character of the person performing the act. Virtue ethics, thus, seeks to determine not what makes an act good but what makes a person virtuous. (Mosser,2010 Sec 1.7) . I think the problem boils down to the person.
Certain people can handle gambling responsibly, while others cannot. Gambling can be a huge temptation, or it can be a fun exciting experience depending on how you look at it. Every person looks at things differently. So how you approach it is the key. If you gamble on something or at a casino and expect to probably lose and have some fun with a chance of winning you probably won’t become addicted. If you go with the expectation that you are going to win and not and not set limits for yourself, the chance of becoming compulsive would increase. This would also depend on your personality and if you become easily addicted. I think if you go about it with the perspective of doing what is right for you, your family and your situation, you will make good decisions most of the time. That classic theoretical solution might be flawed if you ask someone who is a firm believer in relativism. Relativism is the idea that one’s beliefs and values are understood in terms of one’s society, culture, or even one’s own individual values. (Mosser, 2010 Sec 1.8) The difference would be not so much on the individual but on a group of people or a culture. A lot of religious people would say that gambling is wrong no matter what, even if done responsibly.
They might site that crime is associated with it and that it is a temptation, and so on. A person who is not religious or has a looser view of religion would say gambling is right, no matter what. They could show evidence that there is crime everywhere, and that the temptation if managed correctly doesn’t need to cause problems. Many Indians would say that gambling is a blessing because of how it has helped many of the reservations to go up in value and helped put many of them to work. This doesn’t really solve the problem, but the two sides coexist and respect each others viewpoints. There is no right or wrong because the two sides are okay living with each other’s viewpoint even though they are different. My point of view on the subject of gambling is that it is something I am probably never going to change.
Gambling will probably be around forever. I enjoy gambling. I go to the casino once in a while, play the lottery once in a while and bet on football games, but I have never let gambling consume me to the point that I feel I have to gamble. I do not feel like I have to make up what I have lost or that I am going to win every time I place a bet. I believe that you can do a lot of things irresponsibly and bad things can happen. You can drive irresponsibly, or drink irresponsible or both. Sexual activity, drugs, raising children, working, and just about everything can be done irresponsibly. Most of the time bad results will happen eventually. I think gambling falls under that same umbrella. If done responsibly and with limits it can be fun and exciting. If not done responsibly it can lead to bad things, such as addiction, substance abuse, stealing to get money, and loss of property, family and self esteem. However, gambling is only one of many temptations that are addicting. There are alcoholics, shopaholics, smokers, sex addicts and many other facets of life that can be addictive. We cannot be expected to shut down all the bars, and party stores or all the places to shop at, or all adult entertainment establishments so that a small percentage of people won’t behave compulsively. As individuals we must live within our limits and manage these temptations responsibly, even if we need to find help to do it. I do feel that with the introduction of internet gambling that it is too easy to gamble. There needs to be more safeguards put into place to keep minors from accessing these sites, and somehow maybe even addicts that aren’t allowed at casinos, or hide their addiction from their families.
I know that is probably not something within reason, but it needs to be addressed, not only for gambling, but for other areas of internet access such as movies, music, pornography, ammunition, explosives and anything that minors should not be accessing. There needs to be continuous regulation of gambling. There must also be access to help for all compulsive behaviors, not just gambling. This help should be free and funded by the gambling industry. I think some of that is available now, but it must continue and be advertised loudly. In some instances gambling can be considered a victimless crime especially excessive gambling and in some instances it can have many victims. The term “victimless crime” has been used to characterize a number of activities that some people find morally objectionable but that generally are thought to be the kinds of things people engage in voluntarily. (Mosser, 2007 Sec. 5.1) Sometimes if a person gambles too much, or loses too much money, they might miss a car payment, or maybe have their car repossessed. If they choose to gamble and this happens, if they have no family, the only one they are hurting are themselves. If they have family maybe they only lost the money they use to go out to lunch with their buddies on the weekend. These are example of the only victim being the individual that gambles and loses. The victims come in when family is affected by having to adjust transportation if that same car is repossessed or having to skip meals, because there is no money for food. Virtue ethics would support the view that an individual not hurting anyone else and trying to do the right thing by getting under control would make the situation victimless. An egotist would be when the gambler looks only at their best interest by getting that feeling of euphoria when they win and not at the consequences or who they hurt when they lose. In conclusion, I have mentioned the many types of gambling, and the ease of access to casinos, lotteries and online gambling websites. I have explained both sides of the ethical problems of gambling and how it can affect people.
I have applied the classical theory of virtue ethics to the problem and decided that the person who gambles must make a choice that is the most virtuous. This would be a decision that includes playing within limits and not becoming compulsive. I have shown how relativism as an opposite applies to the problem and how most people agree to disagree about the matter and mind their own business when it comes to behavior that can become addicting. I have told you that I feel it is an individual’s choice to gamble and that individual must be responsible enough to make rational decisions when it comes to how much they can afford to lose. I feel anything can be done irresponsibly and if done so will almost always have bad consequences. So, is gambling right or wrong? I know it will probably never go away. I know there will always be two sides to the story. The answer lies with each person. Everyone must decide for themselves what is right or wrong. Gambling, like drinking, smoking marijuana, smoking cigarettes, and many other topics falls in that grey area of ethics that has champions for both sides with many controversial issues involved. Only you can decide for yourself if gambling is right for you or wrong for you.
Anderson, Kirby (2005) Gambling-A Christian Perspective, Kirby Anderson. Probe Ministries Journal
Binde, P. (2005). Gambling, exchange systems, and moralities. Journal of Gambling Studies, 21(4), 445-79. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10899-005-5558-2 Mosser, K. (2010). Introduction to ethics and social responsibility. San Diego, Bridgepoint Education, Inc. Oddo, A. R. (1997). The economics and ethics of casino gambling. Review Of Business, 18(3), 4.
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