Thursday, September 27, 2007

Does it matter whether gambling is morally wrong?

Mark Hebert at WHAS-11 TV posts on his blog about a Survey USA poll that finds that most Kentuckians do not consider gambling morally wrong. He goes on to point out, correctly, that this result may not necessarily bear on the question of whether gambling should be expanded in Kentucky.

There are plenty of things that are fine in moderation, but which in excess constitute vice: Drinking alcohol, ingesting pharmaceuticals, or sitting in the hot tub--although ingesting pharmaceuticals and drinking alcohol while sitting in the hot tub, even in moderation, is probably a bad idea under any circumstances. A lot of other things are bad in excess too, including eating, talking, and giving advice.

And gambling.

Gambling on a personal level is wrong when it leads to the bad stewardship of resources. No one quibbles about spending money on entertainment. Gambling, in moderation, can fall into the category of entertainment. There is little practical difference between going out and dropping $120 at the ball game and dropping $120 at the Blackjack table: it can either be a harmless use of entertainment dollars, or a waste of resources, depending on the ratio of that $120 to the rest of what you have--and on what else you should have spent it on.

But that is still largely irrelevant to the policy question of whether gambling ought to be expanded in Kentucky. There are plenty of people--people, in fact, who vigorously oppose expanded gambling in Kentucky--who don't think gambling is wrong per se. Plenty of them, for example, have no problem with gambling at horse tracks.

I'm one them.

The question of whether we should change the state constitution to allow the installation of casinos in the state is a question with potentially drastic economic, cultural, and social implications that have little or nothing to do with whether gambling, in and of itself, is wrong.

2 comments:

solarity said...

Gambling is as American as the Gold Rush or, for that matter, Wall Street. George Washington deplored the rampant gambling at Valley Forge, but lotteries helped fund his army as well as Harvard, Princeton and Dartmouth. And Washington endorsed the lottery that helped fund construction of the city that now bears his name.

All that being said, it is entirely possible to morally distinguish between private gambling and state-sponsored gambling known as lotteries. The immorality arises from the marketing efforts made by every state lottery which suggests that, not only is it a good investment, but you are stupid if you are not playing. We are using the authority and power of the state, combined with Madison Ave. marketing to effectively prey on the most vulnerable and least informed members of our community. The lure of the lottery is such that even I am hooked into occassionally purchasing a ticket, knowing full well the futility and wastefulness of the act.

Were I the Czar of the Commonwealth I would immediately ban the lottery and allow the public to vote on the casino issue. And hope they vote NO.

Bill Adkins said...

"There are plenty of things that are fine in moderation, but which in excess constitute vice: Drinking alcohol, ingesting pharmaceuticals, or sitting in the hot tub--although ingesting pharmaceuticals and drinking alcohol while sitting in the hot tub, even in moderation, is probably a bad idea under any circumstances."

I agree, but your list is incomplete - add religion to it, for indeed, extremism in religion has given us Al Qaeda, the Taliban, the Inquisition, the Holocaust, St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre, the Crusades, the Salem Witch Trials, --- wow, quite a list and nowhere near done.

More likely it's the excess that is the sin, not the activity itself. Unless you're prepared to ban religion.