We aren’t asking: ‘Why gamble at all?’

Rev. Ian’s letter to the editor published in the Hamilton Spectator, Friday January 25, 2013

Casino public meetings

A crucial expert was missing from the panel discussions concerning a casino held in Flamborough and at City Hall. This is the ethics expert, providing expert perspective on the question, “Why gamble at all?” I believe every citizen of Hamilton would benefit from considering such expert knowledge.

My own view on the ethics of gambling (lotteries, casinos, bingos) is that it promotes the mistaken impression that humans can get something for nothing. When I put money into a slot machine, for no reason at all (since gambling is completely about randomness) I either get a return, or I don’t. If I do this habitually, I begin to believe it takes nothing on my part to get something. I don’t have to become addicted to gambling to develop this erroneous impression in my thinking. Such erroneous thinking infects my attitude toward work, toward play, toward family, friends and community.

Humans delight in playing games. I’m for games and the delight they bring into my life and the lives of others. I’m not for gambling, because gambling takes the human delight in games and exploits it to persuade people they can get something for nothing. There is a cost to everything that is valuable.

Thus gambling is not entertainment, but a vice. We regulate vice, just as we police against crime. If we are reasonable, we seek to increase neither vice nor crime. Both crime and vice impinge on the play of the human spirit that is essential to healthy human productivity.
Rev. Ian Sloan, Centenary United Church, and co-chair of the Social Justice and World Outreach Committee of Hamilton Presbytery of the United Church of Canada