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The Affair Between Religion and Gambling Judaism

jewish Playing cards

Religion and gambling always raises questions and it’s time to seek out answers for what Judaism says about the issue.

According to BBC, Judaism is “one of the oldest monotheistic religions and was founded over 3500 years ago in the Middle East.” Their most important religious text is the Torah and their beliefs are embedded in the concept of living by God’s laws, because God has helped the Jewish people through hard times. Jews have made a pact with God to leads lives according to his wishes. They believe that since they are the chosen people, they are the ones that should set an example to everyone else by showing ethical behavior in their demeanor.

 • Gambling is larceny
• Skill or chance?
• Domestic gambling on Christmas

It seems like the question of whether mobile casino gambling and playing at luxury casinos is “legal,” or not, is not that simple (how surprising…) Rabbis regard the practice of gambling unethical and say that anyone who wants be a good example of morals should shy away from it. 

According to Chabad, gambling is “a risky enterprise financially, and addictive, the rabbis say that the winner is really a loser. Morally speaking that is.” The core of this concept is that the person who loses didn’t expect to lose, so the loser hands his money over reluctantly. Furthermore, he doesn’t get anything in turn, so the whole process resembles theft.

The tip of the iceberg

As Rabbi Eliezer Danzinger says on Chabad, gambling doesn’t only resemble stealing from someone else. By betting on sports or playing the roulette or card games, one only “gives the illusion of contributing to the local economy.” In reality, however, this is not the case, because it adds nothing of lasting value. People waste time gambling when they should rather be learning trades or professions or helping others. Furthermore, the Jewish Virtual Library specifies that in Jewish Law,“people who play games of dice are the sinners “in whose hands is craftiness” (Ps. 26:10), calculating with their left hand and covering with their right, and defrauding and robbing each other (Mid. Ps. to 26:7).”

Jewish Playing Cards

These cards are not for playing poker, that’s for sure (Photo: Religion Museum)

If you are Jewish and like spending time in US poker rooms, all is not lost. The Jewish Virtual Library says that although gambling is considered sinful and frowned upon, it is not a criminal vice. A person who does nothing else but gamble all day and earn all his money this way cannot qualify to be a witness or a judge. If, however, they wish to become either of those things, they have to first pay back every single penny they gambled away from others. Different rules are applicable for those who have an “honest trade” and just gamble on the side, though. People who don’t win their livelihood through gambling are much more tolerated by the belief.

Religion and gambling and the difference between skills and luck

Now comes the fun part. There is a kind of loophole to the whole shenanigan. Naturally, with the modern ages, came the compromise. The Jewish Virtual Library says that a distinction can be made between games of skill and games based on luck. Games of chance are not permitted, while those gambling activities that are based on our know-how, are. Many savants held that games of skill were accepted and people were allowed to play them on Sabbath. Games of chance, however, were strongly forbidden. Another crowd of scholars, however, say that all games, no matter the type, were prohibited on Sabbath.

jewish domino game

Friendly games within the family are ok (Photo: milechai.com)

Even though games that involve skills are not as dire as games of chance, they were still considered a huge waste of time. According to the Jewish law, instead of playing chess, people should commit to learning or an honest day of work. Fun fact: the Jewish Virtual Library says that on the night of Christmas, gambling inside one’s home became a custom. In the Israel Penal Law Amendment, it is said that professional gamblers can be thrown into prison and fined a hefty sum. The punishment for people who only use mobile casinos, for instance, is milder. In conclusion, gaining material benefits through games of chance is highly frowned upon and renounced.

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