Sunday, September 12, 2010

Gambling: The sure way of getting nothing for something

Last Saturday I was at Lords watching England beating Pakistan. It was a great day of cricket – a world record stand for England’s eighth wicket and Pakistan bowled out for their lowest score at this beautiful ground.

The next day, The News of the World accused three Pakistani players of involvement in a betting scam. They were alleged to have agreed to bowl no balls at specific times so a gambling coop could take place. The players denied it. An agent alleged to have taken £150,000 from the newspaper to make the deal was arrested by the police and then released. Investigations continue. The Pakistan cricketing authorities did not suspend the players. The High Commissioner of Pakistan in London proclaimed the innocence of the players. Then the sport’s governing body suspended them pending investigation. Next weekend when I see England play Pakistan again they will be missing their former captain and their two top bowlers.
The Apostle Paul wrote that the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. What else prompts men to risk their careers for dishonest gain? Cricketers are celebrities in Pakistan. The Corruption Perceptions Index puts their country at 139 out of 180 countries listed. U.K. is 17, Nigeria 130 on the index. Pakistan is a country devastated by Islamist strife. The government does not control some areas of the country where the Taliban terrorise the people. Due to terrorist attacks, Pakistan cannot play international cricket in their own country. The unpopular, ineffective government is seen as a client of the U.S.A. whose bases send drones to bomb the Islamists. The small Christian minority in the county often suffer the persecution of false allegations under Shari’a law. But cricket was the Pakistani obsession and pride. Local reaction was incredulity and shame at the idea that their sporting idols could possibly be so tarnished.

Gambling is illegal in Pakistan but widespread there as it is all over the world. In the U.K. it is not only legal but also promoted by the government in the form of the National Lottery. Betting shops abound in every town. Most British people see nothing wrong with it. I beg to differ. ‘The whore and gambler, by the state 
licensed, build the nation’s fate.’ wrote William Blake.
I believe the Bible teaches us that the ways we are to gain wealth are by hard work and inheritance. Until Protestant reformer, John Calvin, a refugee from France granted asylum in Switzerland, taught that business loans are not usury, Christian Europe could not invest money in return for interest. Investment makes your money work but some investment is morally no different from betting for it is mere speculation on the future. My criticism of gambling applies to the futures market and stock exchange as much as to investing with the bookmaker.

Archbishop William Temple wrote, ‘Gambling challenges the view of life which the Christian Church exists to uphold and extend. Its glorification of mere chance is a denial of the Divine order of nature. To risk money haphazard is to disregard the insistence of the Church in every age of living faith that possessions are a trust, and that men must account to God for their use. The persistent appeal to covetousness is fundamentally opposed to the unselfishness, which was taught by Jesus Christ and by the New Testament as a whole. The attempt (which is inseparable from gambling) to make a profit out of the inevitable loss and possible suffering of others is the antithesis of that love of one’s neighbour on which our Lord insisted.
The darkest hour in any man’s life is when he sits down to plan how to get money without earning it. When there is a lot of money involved the odds of “winning” matter very little to many people. This is the appeal of our National Lottery. Untold millions offered for a £1 stake. Never mind the odds that you are more likely to suffer several lightning strikes than to win what I call, the morons’ tax.

‘Lotteries, a tax upon imbeciles’, said Count Camillo Benso di Cavour. After the French Revolution, the state lottery was abolished. ‘It is all the more dangerous,’ a leading opponent argued, ‘since it devours the substance of the poor. It was born of despotism, and used with putridity to drown out the cry of misery, deluding the poor with false hope. The lottery, an odious financial trick, invades the product of the poor man’s toil and brings despair upon innumerable families.’ But when government promotes the lottery, I am but a Christian voice crying in a secular wilderness.

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