Some people think that gambling is evil. They think that it is immoral in that it is a waste of money, promotes gluttony and excess and that it leads to addiction. Some even think it’s a sin. I’m not going to tell anyone what to believe, especially when it comes to religion. Some secular gamblers are quick to stereotype the religious as being closed-minded and against gambling. In many cases, though, religious groups are fine with gambling and in some cases, they even support it.
Last year, Reverend Andrew Trapp made news by appearing in a televised national poker tournament. The Catholic junior priest entered the free tournament and played in an attempt to raise funds for a new sister church that his church is planting. Though he didn’t win the tournament, he still took back $100,000, bringing his church much closer to their goal. It seems that gambling can be done for a good cause.
When asked about a priest engaging in gambling, Rev. Trapp said that gambling, like drinking, is okay if it’s “done in moderation. The key is to be smart and not overdo it.” Comparing it to drinking is a good analogy. Most people would say that it’s okay to have a glass of wine with dinner, but it’s completely different to binge drink, get behind the wheel of a car, and then drive home and beat your wife in a drunken rage. Just because abusing alcohol is bad doesn’t mean drinking it is. The same can be said for gambling. Of course gambling away your college fund or life savings or ending up in debt is a bad thing to do, but enjoying a nice game of blackjack every now and then is fine if you do it responsibly.
The Bible from which Rev. Trapp preaches says the same thing about finances that I always say – that you should be wise with your spending, not be extravagant, and try to use the money you are trusted with for good. Playing blackjack responsibly does not go against any of that.
Now there is another example of a religious group using gambling for the greater good. On Saturday, the East Brunswick Jewish Center held its annual Casino Night fundraiser. Despite heavy snowfall, there was a big turnout for the fundraiser to benefit the New Jersey synagogue. Like any place of worship, the synagogue relies on donations to pay for their expenses. The annual Casino Night fundraiser pays for a big part of their budget.
Over 200 locals braved the blizzard conditions to enjoy some blackjack, roulette, poker and other casino games, all in the name of a good cause. The East Brunswick Jewish Center is an important part of their community, but their efforts in the community and their ability to hold services require money. It is estimated that the Casino Night raised over $23,000 for the synagogue.
Everyone needs to make up their own mind about gambling and about what behavior they think is acceptable and what is not. You know my opinion, as well as that of Rev. Trapp and the East Brunswick Jewish Center. Now it’s time to form your own.