Ask a Franciscan

Is Gambling a Sin?

Is it a sin to place a bet on a horse race? What about lotteries or betting on sports contests? What does the Catholic Church think about playing slot machines? At times it seems that the Church opposes gambling, but isn’t bingo a form of gambling?

Although gambling is not evil in itself (that is, under any and all circumstances), it has become an addiction for many people. Some experts say that more people are addicted to gambling than to alcohol. If someone bets money that is truly recreational (for example, not money for housing or a family’s food, clothing and health care), that is not sinful. But many gamblers cannot set a limit for how much they can lose without endangering their own welfare or that of others.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches: “Games of chance (card games, etc.) or wagers are not in themselves contrary to justice. They become morally unacceptable when they deprive [people] of what is necessary to provide for [their] needs and those of others. The passion for gambling risks becoming an enslavement” (#2413).

That holds true for all forms of gambling.

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