Gambling risks outweigh any benefits to society


POSTED: Monday, July 13, 2009

Each of us has within ourselves the capacity for greatness or mediocrity. In our quest to awaken the best within us, we must not ignore our responsibility for what we excite in others. The result of gambling is to awaken the selfishness in us and self-centeredness in those around us. That is what is wrong with gambling, individually, collectively, in business, at leisure, at home or abroad. This is why state-sponsored gambling is a betrayal of the trust given to it to safeguard the welfare of those they have sworn to serve.

In a conventional sense, gambling is a wager on an uncertain outcome. It is not a crime unless it is practiced in a fashion prohibited by law; it is not evil, or even sinful. For those of us addicted to gambling, it is the stimulation that holds us captive rather than the activity itself.

To understand why gambling is not helpful let us take a closer look at the gambler. The only contribution the gambler makes to the transaction is one of risk. No one is hurt, and the gambler is willing to assume the risk for the reward. Life is full of risks so what can be wrong with seeking a proportionate reward? The answer is there is nothing wrong with risk, it is either an expression of courage or foolishness but risk alone does not justify reward.

Reward is wholesome when it is earned as the result of a contribution to others. By definition, value must be given to others for compensation if it is to be earned. When we contribute to the welfare of others, they are benefiting and we have truly earned a reward. In gambling, risk does enter in but for whom do we risk? Do we risk for the benefit of others or simply for ourselves? Where no one benefits from a transaction besides us, there is an absence of virtue, resulting in an activity founded upon selfishness.

We do not question the nobility of earning a reward. When we use our limited resources for gambling they are not available to the higher calling of rendering value for reward. When we gamble, the resources required to produce value are no longer available. As a result, we squander the opportunity to express ourselves nobly.

When any municipality, for its own monetary gain, contributes to awakening selfishness in its populace, they are simply serving their own self-interest at the expense of their constituency. The illusion that encouraging selfish behavior is justified by its ultimate benefit to its victims is a painful stretch of logic. When a group of people are encouraged to replace virtue with selfishness, this is certainly not noble, it is not moral, nor is it ethical. Good government is a skill, while good government that inspires its constituency is an art.


Harvey A. Green, author of three books, operates an accounting and management consulting practice in Kailua.