Betting on the House!

Jamesapostasy, Bible, burdens, christianity, church, curiosity, doubt, faith, Folklore, general, Happiness, LDS, Leaders, media, Mormon, mormon, orthodox, scripture, tesimony, theology, thought 26 Comments

“What do Catholics, Jews and Mormons have in common?” “Catholics don’t recognize birth control, Jews don’t recognize Jesus, and Mormons don’t recognize each other in Nevada.”

In 1993 there were 1.7 million Utah residents, 1.2 million of whom were Mormons.  It was estimated that 90 percent of the 700,000 gamblers in West Wendover each year came from Utah.

Gambling is one of the world’s vices that so far has had no grip on me.  I might be slightly obsessive compulsive and am worried about getting addicted to anything. I am also cheap!  Somehow I knew at a young age the odds were with the house.

On my mission I saw a couple of missionaries put a few Canadian dollars on the Canadian Lottery , I always wondered what the conversation would be like with the mission president had they won. When I returned from my mission I drove out to Wendover with a friend/returned missionary and he was good enough at black Jack that he won enough each time to pay for two prime rib dinners. He always quit after he got enough to pay for the meals.

In my youth I knew adult members who would go to burlesque shows in Las Vegas.  It was sort of sold to me at the time that it was like going to Europe and watching sophisticated culture.  I think most kids who went from Salt Lake to California and passed Las Vegas put some of their spare change in the slot machines.

I hope I don’t get any of my old Aaronic priesthood friends in trouble with the following. I was raised in a part-member home and our house was a poker gambling den some Sundays after church where the limit was a dollar worth of pennies.  I have to admit it was exciting as a young teacher to have doubled your investment.  But it was equally as boring when your poker face was not up to scratch and your pennies were gone in the first 15 minutes. As far as I’m aware none of us had problems later on in life with betting or gambling.

In Mormon theology, gambling is not rigorously forbidden, like smoking tobacco or drinking alcohol or beverages with caffeine; it is viewed as a lesser transgression, an evil “based on the morally wrong philosophy of getting something for nothing, of taking money without giving fair value in return.”

Do you think the above is a fair description of how Mormons view gambling as being morally wrong and a lesser transgression?

I look at the severity of it!  If  you’re gambling the deed to the family’s house or your Austin Martin, that’s a major transgression in my mind and worse than having a cup of coffee.  However if you’re getting petrol in Las Vegas and put a few nickels in a one armed bandit on the way out, it probably will weigh on your conscience for about a minute after, depending on your conscience!

“Gambling is to be found almost everywhere and is growing. People play poker. They bet on horse races and dog races. They play roulette and work the slot machines. They gather to play in bars, saloons, and casinos, and, all too often, in their own homes. Many cannot leave it alone.  It becomes addictive.  In so many cases it leads to other destructive habits and practices.  And so very many of those who become involved cannot afford the money it takes.  In many cases it robs wives and children of financial security. The game of poker, as it is called, is becoming a college and even a high school craze”.

“If you have never been involved in poker games or other forms of gambling, don’t start.  If you are involved, then quit now while you can do so”. President Hinckley.


Is it harmless fun for some or will most get caught in its jaws and never find their way back,or just a day a year or every decade you can be something your not?

Is it just a bit excitement and glamour from good people who have been living a life of restricted behaviour all their lives and they feel they can’t do that forever without blowing up?

Have you had problems with gambling and found it addictive , do you have friends that are caught in the grips of it?

If you were in Las Vegas just messing around , put some dollars in the slot machine and won the house jackpot of $100,000.00 what would you do with the money?  Give it back to the Casino?  Give it to the Humanitarian fund or Fast offering?  Keep what was left after tax and tithe the rest?  How would the church advise someone in this situation?

Revelation has  been taught to be in our time and our day!  Did President Hinckley have insights to the nature of young people and us in our time and our economic circumstances?

As the economy appears to worsen will we see some members trying to get a home run on the roulette tables with their family’s savings?

Or will we see towns like Wendover boarded up ?

If you are LDS and work for a Casino how do you justify it ?

Is the time coming soon when gambling will be considered a more severe transgression?

Comments 26

  1. I met a lady once whose husband was inactive but won, just shy of, a million on the lottery. She wanted to pay tithing, but the Church didn’t want it. This is of course an anecdote and may not be true, but they definately won the lottery.

    I wonder if the comparison with coffee is quite apt, i remember something about the word of wisdom being for the weakest of the saints, i interpret this to mean those who might be pre-disposed to certain behaviours. Considering myself one of these in many areas i do not gamble, and would not drink coffee, alcohol or smoke, even casually – even if my temple recommend was not determined by it.

    I would agree that when gambling means re-mortgaging your house then it is more than minor transgression.

    Is there a difference between gambling in casinos and remortgaging your house to invest on the stock market? I have not got the money to do either and so don’t know anything about investing, so i don’t really know how it works.

  2. ,b>In my youth I knew adult members who would go to burlesque shows in Las Vegas. It was sort of sold to me at the time that it was like going to Europe and watching sophisticated culture. I think most kids who went from Salt Lake to California and passed Las Vegas put some of their spare change in the slot machines.

    I lived in Las Vegas for a couple of years. Never gambled — other than point counting 21 (which is work) it is a sucker bet — why would I want to just lose money? Skipped the burlesque shows too.

    On the other hand, some games where you are paying to play, are another story. My dad had guys who worked for him who played Keno. Two cards would get them a free show and two free drinks. Did they ever win? No, but then they weren’t keeping track of their cards either — they were basically paying 50 cents for a show and two drinks.

    If I won money? As when a co-worker bought some lottery tickets for me (his superstition was that if he bought tickets for others it increased his chances for winning)? Well, no one got any money, but if I had I would probably take it, pay tithing on it and spend it as I felt like.

    Just a hundred thousand dollars isn’t enough to matter, only enough to cause trouble. It is too much (in that it is too much to ignore), but not enough to change your life (you can’t quit your job and retire to the Bahamas on that kind of money).

    Better to ask people what they would do if they netted $30 million. That is enough to derail your life.

  3. Considering the fact that I have a fair degree of advanced statistical training, the lottery and Las Vegas hold zero fascination for me as a player. As a student of human behavior however…I have to admit I’m hooked and I can’t leave it alone.

    I’d never play the lottery, and I’d NEVER go to Vegas to actually play any of those games (Black Jack might have been an exception at one point BUT they’ve done a few things to make counting nigh impossible, so no thanks–but if you are playing Black Jack with a single deck AND for money, counting is reasonably easy–AND well worth the effort of learning how!).

    As a student of risk seeking behavior and why people engage in it and how people evaluate risk, Vegas offers intense opportunity for study. Game theorists have studied these things extensively, and I’m constantly fascinated by these things.

    Is it a sin to become involved in it? Ultimately, I think it falls more into the ‘transgression’ than ‘sin’ category, but whatever. In other words, the act of taking a risk to gain a reward is not inherently immoral. However we have been commanded through the prophet to avoid gambling, so it becomes a transgression to do so. That’s how I see it. I view it much like the same reason that I tell my kids not to jump on the beds at home. It might break, it might not–but NO ONE KNOWS BEFOREHAND WHICH WAY THINGS WILL GO, SO THE RULE IS NO ONE JUMPS ON THE BED!

    Gambling is the same way for us humans (not for God). We don’t know ahead of time if we will become addicted (that’s the true moral danger–not gaining something for no work–although that has its own moral pitfalls) and because of that addiction engage in further improprieties. You don’t know. No one knows. You have NO WAY of knowing. Thus the commandment becomes a shield. Thus the scriptures talk about a shield of faith, and that’s what this is–we have faith to obey the commandment and it shields us from potential dangers which we may not see and cannot predict. Not from ALL dangers, but from some.

    Of course, God knows which of His Children might become addicted to gambling (or caffiene or alcohol or whatever), but in allowing us to exercise our agency, does not always give this information. Why? Because we have to learn for ourselves.

    Of course, I think the Word of Wisdom tie in here is fairly obvious, so I won’t berate that.

  4. I have had multiple Bishops say they would return any money that had been donated that had come from gambling of any kind. So while it is not tax free it is tithing free money.

    With BYU going to the Vegas bowl it is the Buffets that get assaulted not the slots. While many will throw a few dollars in they are not big gamblers and the casinos do not count on Mormon dollars to survive.

  5. I’m decent playing Texas Hold’em, and can often make some money at it.

    But the joy has gone out of it, for me.

    I also hate computerized slot machines. Especially how they still make the coin jingle sound when you win. The whole thing is kind of gone sour for me, actually. ~

  6. The Sin of Gambling is not mainly the “money for nothing” mentality, as much as that is touted. For me at least, it was the way it weakens one’s self concept and self trust. Only someone who has had an addiction can relate, but when I gambled I would constantly tell myself that I would leave after I had made or lost X amount of money; and then I would change my mind. The amount of times you make and break your commitments to yourself within a short period of time can be devastating to a person’s self concept, when you stop trusting yourself. I had a rather short few months of gambling years ago (and luckily I stopped having made money), but I have sworn it off completely because of that aspect of gambling. I think it is almost as addictive for some people as pornography.

  7. “If you are LDS and work for a Casino how do you justify it ?”

    My Stake President was the CFO of the biggest race track in the whole region. (yes, the gambling kind) He had an absolutely huge house and car that made me want to cry. I used to have a big problem with this. I’ve since gotten over it. From his calling, it looks like the Lord didn’t really care either.

    Rico #1:

    I work in finance and in stocks in general. There has always been a very thin line between “investing” and “gambling”. The past few months have demonstrated this better than I was ever able to before.

  8. The innoculation against gambling is to grow up in Las Vegas the way I did. It will hold no fascination for you, and you will see only its tawdry, deceitful side.

    The church does consider gambling a sin, not just a minor indulgence with no consequences unless you go too far. It’s why we’ve never held raffles. The language explaining why raffles were not to be used in raising building funds, for example, was always-but-always that it was gambling, and that gambling was wrong. Your bishop won’t take tithing on gambling wins any more than he would take it as tithing on your income as a prostitute or a bank robber or a hit man. Gambling may not be illegal everywhere, but it’s wrong everywhere.

  9. Is working in a casino any worse than the grocery store owner who sells alcoholic beverages and cigarettes? Should we avoid investing in any mutual fund that has holdings in Anheiser-Busch or RJR? Ultimately, what you are asking is whether it is inherently wrong to make money from another’s actions, when you view those actions as sinful?

    I had a friend in high school whose father was a temple-recommend holder and worked as a croupier. It was a job that allowed him to support his family. I also worked in a grocery store, owned and managed by a bishop, where sales of alcohol accounted for about 10% of all sales. One could view his tithing as being provided by Budweiser and Michelob.

    The danger of gambling, and why we are counseled to avoid it, is because of the addiction potential. Gambling, per se doesn’t destroy families any more than a nightly glass of wine with dinner. Addiction, of any type, is what destroys lives.

    So, if I know when to stop and keep to my budget, is it ok for me to view playing poker or blackjack as entertainment? Is it any more sinful than paying $1500/yr for season tickets to BYU football – which is another form of entertainment? Or paying $40,000/yr to own and operate a boat purely for enjoyment?

  10. For several years in the 1980s, I attended COMDEX each year in Las Vegas. COMDEX was the largest and most important personal computer industry trade show at the time; the first few times, I attended as an exhibitor; after that, I attended as a writer and columnist for BYTE Magazine.

    There was one particular small casino on the Strip, nestled in among all the larger ones, that had nickle slots (it may have even had a few penny slots) and dollar blackjack. On each COMDEX trip, I usually make one visit there with a small preset cash budget (typically $20 or so) and play until the money was all gone. I didn’t see it as gambling; as per Kari, I saw it as paying for entertainment for a few hours. There may have been one or two times when I walked out with some of my cash still left; I don’t ever recall walking out with more than I came in with.

    Anyway, in the late 1980s, I started writing for Macworld instead of BYTE and so typically attended the Macworld Conferences in San Francisco and Boston rather than COMDEX (which died off about 5 years ago). I’ve driven through Las Vegas many times since then, typically stopping for gas there, but have never felt a particular urge to gamble. ..bruce..

  11. I think the greatest benefit of avoiding gambling is avoiding the atmosphere in which it occurs. When gambling is involved on a large scale many times morals in other areas (such as alcohol, drugs, sex) are slackened. I have nothing against gambling. I don’t put much weight into the “getting something for nothing” reasoning, as the objective of capitalism isn’t far from that. But for those looking to live on the higher moral road avoiding places of gambling is a wise thing to do.

  12. Which is worse? Gambling within your means or not living within your means (racking up debt)? I would say the latter. I also agree that the chief distinction between stock market speculation and gambling is that the house always wins, but over time you don’t generally have a 98% payout on wall street (exception: right now). There are many casinos owned or operated by church members from what I have heard. I believe they tithe on their incomes.

  13. “If you’re gambling the deed to the family’s house or your Austin Martin, that’s a major transgression in my mind and worse than having a cup of coffee.”

    But isn’t that what we do when we invest our retirement money in the stock market? We take the money we’ve set aside for the future time when we won’t have an income to support ourselves and throw it into a volatile system that has “historically” been a safe bet, but as we’ve seen in the past year, can be devastating as well. I’m not condemning (my employer matches 4%–how can I not invest?) as much as throwing out this observation for contemplation.

    Also noted: the LDS Church invests a significant amount of its tithing dollars as well. Gambling with the Lord’s money?

  14. I used to hustle pool in my youth in about 1970 BC (before the church). Even when I was a winner I can remember the faces of many people that just lost their pay check.
    Oh; trying to justify a sin as a small transgression is like justifying lying because it’s not as bad as sterling. Well stealing isn’t as bad as murder so it’s ok too. You can’t ever justify sin once you start you can’t stop.

    I still like shooting pool. For fun.

  15. I’m surprised nobody has mentioned that gambling is just a big waste of time.

    “Thy mind, O man, if thou wilt lead a soul unto salvation, must stretch as high as the utmost heavens, and search into and contemplate the darkest abyss, and the broad expanse of eternity–thou must commune with God. How much more dignified and noble are the thoughts of God, than the vain imaginations of the human heart! None but fools will trifle with the souls of men. How vain and trifling have been our spirits, our conferences, our councils, our meetings, our private as well as public conversations–too low, too mean, too vulgar, too condescending for the dignified characters of the called and chosen of God, according to the purposes of His will, from before the foundation of the world!” (HC 3:295-96)

  16. I’m surprised nobody has mentioned that gambling is just a big waste of time.

    I feel that way about Sunday School, but lots of people I know really enjoy it. I also feel the same way about the NBA, the NHL, Scrabble, Uno, and stick-pulling competitions. But lots of people really enjoy those too. One person’s waste of time is another’s hobby.

  17. Born and raised in Vegas, and in general I agree with #8Banned Commenter. No fascination or interest at all.
    That being said, as a young adult, the casino next to my place of employment was the easiest way to cash a paycheck. The casino always had a scratch-off card when you’d cash a paycheck. I did that every 2 weeks and never cared what or if I won. Eventually I won $2 in nickels and put them in a slot machine on the way out the door (“well, it’s the casinos money anyway. they can have it back.”). I hit a large jackpot. I payed tithing on it, and nobody asked me where the extra-large tithing deposit came from. With the rest I paid for part of a semester of school. All money put to good use, I say. Sometimes the Lord makes the sun shine on the good as well as the evil. 😉

  18. I don’t have the stomach for gambling, but I also don’t begrudge those who enjoy it for entertainment. A friend of mine has a dad who is terminal. He had a plan to commit suicide once his money runs out, so he went on a gambling spree. However, he hit a lucky streak and won $17K, so now he has even more money, putting off his plans. Divine intervention through gambling? Perhaps just a really strange story.

  19. #6. “The amount of times you make and break your commitments to yourself within a short period of time can be devastating to a person’s self concept, when you stop trusting yourself.”

    This was a very interesting post for me. I’d never thought of this before, but there IS an amount of self-concept loss when a person breaks their own “code,” whatever it might be. Why put ourselves in a situation that we know will erode our wills? Why make promises we know we can’t keep?

  20. I dearly want to be a dedicated Mormon but I enjoy my cuppa tea with friends and I really think gambling would be a lot more harm than drinking a cup of tea.

  21. I am LDS and I have a temple recommend.  I also graduated from BYU in 1994.   Today,  I work as Table Games Dealer at Dover Downs Hotel and Casino in Dover Delaware.   I deal Roulette, Black Jack and (just recently) learned how to deal Craps (though I’m still breaking in on this game! Not an easy game to deal!)
    Finally, I too, commuted several times on I-15 from Provo Utah to Laguna Hills California via Las Vegas Nevada. So don’t think that just because I deal table games on the East Coast, that I don’t know about the stuff on the West Coast.  I’m 41.   I’ve been around the block a couple of times.   Trust me on this one.     

    Hence, being a Dealer and LDS….allow me to put the whole Mormon vs. Gambling thing to rest.
    1)  Gambling is wrong.  It is a sin.  The Church will never endorse it. Ever. Period.
    2)  Is it ok for and LDS member work in a Casino?   Yes.  It is ok.
          a)  I’ve talked with my Bishop about it.   It is a job.   Several times he mentioned to me how the Prophet Daniel had to work for the Evil King Nebbekadezar (sp?)
          b) Having a job,  even table games, is better than receiving unemployment.   It pays a lot more too!   Also, I had to do something!   Something!   I have SIX children!   What was I going to do?!  Nephi had to get the plates.   What was he going to do?  Wait for for Laban to get sober?         c) I already knew about the working atmosphere in a Casino.   In short, it can be a cesspool of scum and villany, but I repeat, I still had to do something!   My sister law had been pushing me into it for months.  When my last job lead ran out, I looked to my wife, and said, “Honey, I have to do something. Something besides unemployment.”   I didn’t even attend Black Jack school until after the 3rd day of class.  I really weighed it out!   My instructor gave the ok, but he could have easily have turned me away.    
          d)  Your average gamblers are stupid.  Most fall into the “Gambler fallacy” which is:  If if I bet and win this time and go back and bet the same way I did when I won, then I will win again.    WRONG!   Not true.  I am amazed how many gamblers keep betting the same way over and over again only to watch how they slowly lose all of their money.   Gambling is a fraud.  In my short time, I have only met two pro Gamblers who actually understand this.
          e)  Gambling is a serious addiction.    On several occasions while dealing roulette,  I literally watched the players forego the drink lady just to see where the roulette ball would fall!   Seriously,  the gambling addiction actually took a front seat over the alcohol addiction.   I was blown away by this.   
          f) The Casino wants you to win.  They even want you to win big.   This is how they get you.   My boss has a saying about the money the house losses to the player:    The money lost by the house are like the cows; eventually it all comes home.    How true this is.   I, on a few occasions, have had to give out thousands in payouts, only to see all of it, AND MORE, come back to the house.    Remember, you may have won thousands, but it is not your money until you actually LEAVE the CASINO.    Don’t think that the pit bosses don’t know how many black and purple you are carrying.  Trust me.  They do.  
          g)  Everyone in the Casino knows that I DON’T GAMBLE.  Nor drink or smoke either.  Everyone has told me that I am a smart man.   If that is not a big hint that Gambling is wrong,  I don’t know what is?   In other, words, I am pretty sure that Satan KNOWS that HE IS Satan.  
          h)  If you are going to gamble anyway,  please tip your dealers.   Trust me on this one.   Every dealer on ALL OF PLANET EARTH, knows the ins and outs of every game they deal.   You don’t tip your dealer, your dealer will eventually beat you down to a small pulp of nothing.   They will take everything out of your wallet and empty all of its contents.    I take pride beating down a table that will not tip me.   I routinely crush the people that don’t tip me when they win.   I call it “Operation recall”.   Don’t come in with a grumpy attitude either.   If you came to the Casino to have fun, then act like it.   
          I)  I used to be the banking industry.   With the banking industry on its head since 2008, seriously, who is more corrupt?   Wall street or the Casino’s.   With recent events, that is probably a hard one to answer.   
          J)   Finally, I have actually explained to other dealers and even to a Floor supervisor about the beliefs of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.   Imagine that?!  Inside a Casino I am talking to others about the church.   I never in my wildest dreams would have thought of doing that.  

    But Hey,   this work and glory is Heavenly Father’s work and glory.   Everything we all do, it will, somehow, in someway, end up being just another brick to his kingdom here on Earth.   This is how I have to look my employment in a small Casino. It’s Heavenly Father’s way of working the angles.   In the end, he already knows how the ball is going bounce what number it is going to land for each everyone of us.   

    So what is all the fuss about Mormons and their relationship to gambling?   Satan wants it to be some kind of “controversy”.   Nonsense.  No controversy.   Instead, the Sprit dictates what is right and what is wrong.    Odds are, they always end up with a righteous result.   Not a bad bet.    

    1. I enjoyed your comments, truly.  I am a member of this church for 21 years now, and I have a hardline stance against engaging in any form of gambling.  This is difficult when fantasy football season comes around, or the March Madness pools begin to pop-up.

      You had me up until comment H and I.  But other than that, I really enjoyed your remarks.

  22. I play poker professionally. And it makes my blood boil when I hear it lumped in with Blackjack and other forms of gambling. Poker IS NOT gambling, it is a SKILL SPORT. No different than any other that may involve luck (like all ball games).  This is a proven fact. If it were not a skill game, and merely a lottery, it would be impossible to have players who are multiple winners, time and time again. And I wouldn’t be able to play it professionally and make an income from it. 

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