Sunday, May 26 2024 - 12:54 AM
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Big Gamble

If you gamble, you could lose a lot more than money.

Three teenage boys huddle over a cardboard box at the store counter.

“It’s only $30; if we split it three ways, that’s not bad,” says one.

“Yeah, man, we have to get this!” exclaims another.

Convinced, they take money out of their pockets and walk away the proud owners of a poker set.

Poker is hot. Teens all over the world are getting into this game that requires quick thinking, math skills, and well-controlled facial muscles.

TV shows such as Celebrity Poker Showdown use multiple cameras at different angles to underscore the tension and excitement of the game. Channels featuring poker tournaments—Bravo, ESPN, and the Travel Channel—find that the games are their highest rated shows. Winners of tournaments often reach celebrity status, whether they were famous before or not.

These shows have made their mark on pop culture. Research done by the University of Pennsylvania’s Anennberg Public Policy Center showed that the percentage of weekly card betters under the age of 18 has risen from 25.9 percent in 2003 to 43.2 percent in 2004. Other forms of gambling, such as Internet casinos and betting on sporting events, are also on the rise.

The Facts

Gambling may seem harmless on a social level, with many parents supporting poker games at home rather than teens running the streets. But where does it stop?

One study done by the University of Florida in 2001 found that teenagers classified as problem gamblers used more alcohol, tobacco, or other drugs than any other group. A separate study by the National Council on Problem Gambling concluded that of young people who gamble, 50 percent are likely to binge drink and 75 percent are likely to smoke marijuana and use tobacco. The gambling doesn’t end with money, but rather seems to encourage teens to wager their health.

The effects of gambling addiction can be devastating. Compulsive gamblers can lose everything they have, going bankrupt just for the sake of a game. This addiction ruins families and tears lives apart.

People who gamble as teens may be more likely to have compulsive problems with it as they get older. While currently there’s no rise in teenage problem gamblers, experts say it could be years before the results of the new gambling craze become apparent.

The Bible and Gambling

If life were about getting the most money for the least effort, gambling would be the perfect way to try to do that. But what God requires is at war with that philosophy. 1 Thessalonians 4:11 says, “Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands, just as we told you.”

Following God means ditching get-rich-quick schemes and relying on Him rather than chance. Even though there isn’t a commandment in the Bible that says, “Thou shalt not gamble,” there are still plenty of reasons not to.

In 1 Timothy 6:17, Paul tells people not “to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment.” Gambling is all about putting your hope in uncertain wealth.

Each gambler wants to be successful. No one wants to lose. The best gamblers use strategy to win, believing that with intelligence and good bluffing they will come out on top. But no matter how good the players are, the big winner one day can be the greatest loser the next.

God’s promises are not about really good odds, they’re guarantees. If God has promised to provide us richly with everything we need to be happy, why look anywhere else?

Are You a Gambler?

Do you have a gambling problem? If you answer yes to many of these questions, it’s time to seek help:

• Do you think gambling is the most exciting thing you’re involved in?
• Do you try to keep your family and friends from knowing how much you gamble?
• Do your friends gamble?
• Are you considered part of the gambling crowd?
• Do you often daydream about the pastime?
• Do you use most or all of your free time to gamble?
• Do you miss school or important events because of it?
• Do you think a big win will solve your problems?
• Do you ever lie about gambling or how much you lose?

• Is gambling the main reason you feel good about yourself?
• Do you gamble with money meant for other things, such as clothes, your lunch, or car insurance?
• Have you ever borrowed money to gamble?
• Have you ever stolen money or goods to support your habits?
• Do you get upset or irritable when you’re unable to gamble?
• Do you want to gamble more when you’re upset?
• Do you feel upset or guilty because you’ve lost money?
• Is it hard to stop gambling after you’ve lost?

• Do you often gamble longer than you intended to or lose more than you wanted?
• When gambling, do you lose track of time or forget about everything else?
• Do you find that thinking about the pastime makes it hard for you to get your homework done?
• Have you had suicidal or self-destructive thoughts because of it?

Where to Go for Help

If you need help with your gambling problem, here are some good places to start getting it:

  • lists meeting sites by state or by country, and it also features hotline numbers to call.
  • has several tests you can take based on information from the American Psychiatric Association and the National Council on Problem Gambling. It also offers forums for people with gambling addictions to seek help or to offer advice to each other.
  • The National Council on Problem Gambling offers a 24-hour confidential hotline service: 1-800-522-4700.

If you liked this, you might also like The Right Direction

An article by Megan Brauner.

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About Megan Brauner

Megan Brauner

writes from Arizona.

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