One of the lesser used cultural markers can be who advertises at football matches. Look round any ground, live or on TV and you can tell immediately what sort of things people are prepared to spend money on hoardings for. At a recent game at Carrow Road, (the home of the famous but woefully underperforming Norwich City) I counted 14 separate displays for Casinos, betting shops, poker rooms and the rest on the three sides I could see, most of which were linked to a website URL. (Yes I regret to report the game was that unexciting.)
One of the shifts of recent times has been an explosion of gambling, especially over the internet. We are seeing a meteoric rise in numbers of such sites and of players at such sites. This is matched by a loss of perception that real money is involved and a rise in unserviceable debts. Certainly women are finding it easier to game in cyberspace than traditional bookies and casinos. The gambling industry is planning for a rise of 22% per annum; charities are reporting that online gambling is exacerbating the already serious problem of personal debt in the UK. Excitement, the adrenaline rush and the joy of winning is one thing: poverty, family breakdown and harm is something else.
It isn’t our way to decry betting as a moral evil, but it is a danger. Gambling and betting are not in themselves wrong but wrong things can happen because of them. The catechism teaches: Games of chance (card games, etc.) or wagers are not in themselves contrary to justice. They become morally unacceptable when they deprive someone of what is necessary to provide for his needs and those of others. The passion for gambling risks becoming an enslavement. (CCC 2413) The ease of 24/7 access to internet gambling sites can be a gateway in for vulnerable people who may end up depriving themselves and their families of financial resources which should be better spent. It may also open some people up to an addiction.
If you have a problem, then counsellors and other services are available.
Here are few tips:
Keep an eye on the clock: know how long you’ve been online.
The numbers are real: as with all gambling only risk what you can afford to lose.
Never chase your losses
Keep your passwords safe and away from children.
You can ask to be excluded from sites and software exists to block your own, or your children’s access to these sites.
Pause for Thought
The Catholic church teaches that gambling is not intrinsically wrong. But it becomes morally unacceptable when a person’s gambling becomes obsessive or leads to the gambler or their family suffering through loss of money. The duty of society is to therefore to regulate gambling so as to allow it to continue whilst effectively protecting vulnerable people, especially young people, who may be at risk of exploitation or addiction.
Comment by Archbishop Peter Smith, Chairman of the Department of Christian Responsibility & Citizenship of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales on the 2004 Gambling Bill