Dealing with Gambling

An excerpt from the Close To Home Series pamphlet.

Holding out for a big win

Barb was successful in her work in the accounting department of a health service agency. With her attention to detail and strong organizational skills, she moved steadily to greater levels of responsibility. When her husband Randy’s job was cut, Barb felt added pressure. She worked extra hours to ensure her position was secure, and to bring additional income.

The financial stresses came at a time when Barb was already struggling. Two years before, her only son had left home to attend university. The depression she had known for most of her life became difficult to manage. Even the time she usually enjoyed with friends or at church events became dull and unfulfilling.

One day her office friends organized a birthday dinner for a colleague at a lounge with electronic gaming machines. Accepting an invitation to play, she was surprised when she quickly won $60. She was also surprised by how relaxed she felt – a complete escape from her worries. As a long-time Christian, Barb never imagine herself involved with gambling. But over the next several months, she found herself returning repeatedly to the lounge to play. She has some big wins, increasing her desire to gamble. …

Gambling allowed Barb to escape from the pressure and emptiness she experienced … but the secret came at a price.

The problem of gambling

Gambling is the act of risking something of value (usually money) on an event in which the outcome is based on chance. Gambling requires two parties in which one wins and another loses. In North America 86 percent of the population participates in some form of gambling, whether through buying lottery or raffle tickets, playing bingo, internet gambling, or going to the casino.*

In the United States and Canada, problem gambling (a compulsive, addictive behavior) affects up to 4 percent of the population, with some estimates reaching 7 percent. In the last two decades, problem gambling has increased among adults, with youth and young adults at particular risk. It is significantly more common among males than females, although that is changing.

Problem gambling occurs when a person has difficultly limiting money and time spent on gambling. The problem can be somewhat mild when one pursues gambling “just for the fun of it” – but it can progress to a chronic mental illness recognized by the American Psychiatric Association (APA). …

*Statistics taken from various website reference on page 10.

Gambling, the Bible, and the Christian story

In one Bible story, Jesus meets a woman who is so crippled by an unhealthy spirit that she is bent over and unable to stand up straight (Luke 13:10-17). Jesus heals her from her sickness, and by calling her a “daughter of Abraham” reminds her of her worth in God’s eyes.

People struggling with a gambling problem can seem like the woman Jesus met, crippled by their addiction. Many struggle to find and accept God’s love. Perhaps they’ve heard message about gambling as a sin. Perhaps judgments about gambling have included references to Bible verses about money, such as “you cannot serve God and wealth” (Matthew 6:24), or “the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil” (1 Timothy 6:10). …

Steps toward wholeness

If you are trapped in a compulsive gambling habit, you can know that healing and freedom are possible. The following are some practical steps.

  1. Open up.
  2. Understand your motivation.
  3. Start small.
  4. Deal with finances.
  5. Don’t chase your losses.
  6. Address faulty beliefs about gambling.
  7. Deal with the urge to gamble.
  8. Seek treatment.
  • Self-help groups
  • Your doctor
  • Counseling
  • Treatment programs


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