Tough Topics

Talking to Children about Gambling

-Pat Verbal

Bethany told her Sunday school teacher, “My dad and I buy a lottery ticket every week at the gas station. We won ten dollars once!” Before the teacher could intervene, Joshua spoke up, “You shouldn’t play the lottery; that’s gambling!”

Many children are exposed to gambling every day-lottery tickets on sale at the corner store, poker tournaments on TV, casino billboards. Casinos sponsor community events and donate computers to schools in an effort to appear more family friendly. While it’s illegal for children to be on gambling floors, their exposure begins with childcare centers located in casinos and with colorful gambling logos on kids’ T-shirts. Children equate gambling with fun and games. When they win they feel special. Children also know about taking risks to learn new skills. So when you talk to them about gambling mention concrete examples: buying a lottery ticket, playing bingo or poker for money, betting on a sporting event, etc. Help them understand that what they do with money should be based on God’s plan for them in His Word.

What is gambling?

Gambling is placing money on a game, event or bet with an uncertain outcome. When you gamble you give small amount, hoping to win a lot in return with little effort.

Is it okay for Christians to gamble?

The Bible doesn’t say “You should not gamble.” But God tells us how He wants us to live. Here are some special things He tells us about money:

  • “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness and all these things [the things you need] will be added to you” (Matt. 6:33). As Christians God wants us to live for Him and trust Him for our needs.
  • “Work with your hands…so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders [people who don’t believe on Jesus] and so that you will not be dependent on anybody” (1 Thess. 4-11). Work is God’s plan for us. He knows it is good for us to work for our living and as an example to others.
  • “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil” (1 Tim. 6:10). The desire to have money to gamble with can lead to sins such as laziness, lying and stealing.

What’s wrong with a little bet with my friends?

Little bets can lead to big bets. Maybe you will be able to control your betting but what if your friend becomes addicted to gambling and ruins his life? How would you feel? It is fun to win a bet but someone has to lose. This could ruin your friendship. God says, “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:25). Wouldn’t it be better for you and your friend to put your money together and do something to help someone in need? You will feel great and please God as well! Bethany’s Sunday school teacher offered to answer any questions about gambling after class. Several children took her up on her offer and she was able to share from God’s Word without making the lottery the focus of her teaching.

Facts for the Teacher

  • Some slot machines target children by featuring themes like Candy Land, Monopoly and I Dream of Jeannie
  • According to the National Study Commission on Gambling 20 percent of adolescent may already have gambling problems.
  • The Commission also points out the children who start gambling early are predisposed to becoming pathological gamblers.