Is Gambling a Sin?

Q: Isn’t gambling a sin? How then can you Catholics justify playing bingo? — and in church yet!

A: First of all, the stereotype of bingo-playing Catholics is really overblown. The vast majority of parishes don’t even have a bingo night.

Second, gambling is not in and of itself wrong. Read your Protestant Bible and you will not find gambling condemned anywhere in it.

The average gambler loses money, but the process is entertaining, so what gambling amounts to is paying money to be entertained, and there is nothing wrong with that. People do it for every other kind of entertainment (books, movies, plays, operas, videos, etc.).

Gambling only becomes sinful when one pays too much money for the entertainment. A person in a casino spending thousands of dollars that his family needs is committing a sin, and the Church is very firm about this (Catechism of the Catholic Church 2413). It would also be sinful for a person to spend thousands of dollars his family needed on other forms of entertainment, too, like limited edition books, movies, collectors items, or whatever.

However, there is nothing wrong with a person who can afford it spending a few dollars for an evening of entertainment, whether it is bingo, the movies, or something else. In fact, spending a few dollars on an evening playing bingo in a church basement with a bunch of fellow Christians is probably a lot more wholesome activity than spending the same amount of money going to see a typical movie — or for that matter staying home and watching TV for free.

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