What are the chances that gambling is a sin?

I bet I could think of at least 425 million things I could do with $425 million if I were to win the lottery tonight.

As the winning numbers for the third-largest Powerball jackpot to date are announced at 10 p.m. CST this evening, millions of Americans will be simultaneously holding their breaths. I’d imagine that there will be some Catholics among those millions of people.

With a lottery ticket in hand and the chance of winning such a large sum of money, the feelings of anticipation almost seem like a sin to me. So what does the Catholic Church say about taking a risk to get your hands on the jackpot?

When it comes to gambling, the actual act is not considered an evil by the Catholic Church. There is no mention of the word “gambling” in the Bible, although there are a few examples of casting lots (with a famous example being the Roman soldiers dividing Jesus’ garments at his crucifixion (John 19:24)). God is never quoted for saying “Thou shalt not buy lottery tickets.” Some churches even hold raffles and bingo nights to support the parish and its ministries. (See our Sounding Board about gambling in churches.)

The Catechism of the Catholic Church (no. 2413) briefly mentions that games of chance and wagers are not bad. It is the emotions that come from gambling that the church feels negatively about. Greed, coveting, selfishness, indulgence, power, worship of money, all of these things can control the mind and soul. Once these emotions are thrown into the mix, God’s law is violated. These emotions must have been St. Augustine’s justification for saying, “The Devil invented gambling.”

As long as the games are played in moderation, so as not to become enslaved by the addiction and evil emotions, and are conducted fairly so no one is cheated, robbed, or unjustly taken advantage of in any other way, we Catholics are free to enjoy the excitement that comes from taking risks.

Should Catholics gamble? What do you wager?

Good luck to you all tonight!

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About the author

Caitlyn Schmid

Caitlyn Schmid worked as assistant editor at U.S. Catholic.