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Betchya Can’t Guess What This Post Is About

Rusty - April 4, 2005

Today being the final game of the NCAA basketball tournament, I can’t help but wonder if President Hinckley’s recent remarks about gambling are relevant. I usually put down $5-10 in a pot (to make the tournament interesting, otherwise, it’s a long McDonald’s commercial). President Hinckley even went so far as to say (paraphrase), “I pay $5 to see a movie, I pay $5 to play poker. What’s the difference? They are not the same thing. The difference is that in poker you do not receive value in return.”

I sometimes get frustrated when the general authorities get into the specifics, rather than the principles. Don’t get me wrong, I fully condemn gambling as a principle. But what about the gray area? (I will now plaigerize myself from a comment I made here) Does this mean that I can no longer put $5 down on the NCAA Tourney? How about just betting someone $5 that their boss will yell by the end of the day? What about just betting the last slice of pizza that you’ll make this free-throw? What about just betting (for nothing) that you can jump higher than him? This sounds like I’m joking, but I’m not. And I’m not even playing the “a-lot-of-people-can-handle-gambling-without-getting-addicted” card (pun intended) that I suspect many people felt after the prophet’s discourse. Mine is not a question of “can I get away with it and still be righteous?” but rather “now that you’ve seemingly defined some a few lines, what about the rest?”.

President Hinckley’s fundamental objection to gambling (it does not offer a fair return in goods and services) is part of my problem. I find the entertainment of sitting around the table playing blackjack for quarters and dimes a VERY fair return. Whether it’s round pieces of metal or round pieces of metal traded in for little pieces of refined sugar which is then used as the currency for the game, it’s all the same to me. I understand he’s speaking about this because there are many out there who have a problem with it and it’s apparently ruining lives, but I’m a bit frustrated that I now need to question myself every time I say, “I betchya…” because a bunch of guys can’t get enough of Wendover.

Where does everyone else stand on this? I’d be interested to know if President Hinckley’s remarks have made enough of an impression that you will change your actions (no more penny-poker night with my pals, no more NCAA tournament, no more lottery tickets, etc.)

1 Comment »

  1. I was little disappointed that President Hinckley didn’t just say, “Gambling is wrong, period. It is spiritually harmful,” rather than giving an economics-based explanation. The problem with the “value” explanation is apparent: someone who pays $5 for the game of poker is getting their value, if they value the poker game at $5. If they derive $5 worth of entertainment, valued subjectively, from the game of poker, regardless of whether they win or lose, then they get their value. What weakened the argument was that President Hinckley conflated lotteries and other gambling such as poker. The value argument is apposite to the lottery, at least more so than to the poker example. Since he is concerned with both lottery gambling and poker, he should have just said that God frowns on it and that it is addicting in either form and spiritually detrimental. This is, after all, what he meant and what he did say; it’s just that he muddied the waters a little, from my perspective, by explaining his concern in terms of the “value” argument.
    john fowles | Email | Homepage | 04.04.05 – 7:27 pm | #

    I guess it depends on whether you’re a letter of the law sort of guy or a spirit of the law sort of guy (and goodness knows the Church breeds plenty of the former sort). IMHO, taking a draw on your credit card to put big money on the tournament through one of your bookies is going a bit too far, but the standard office NCAA tournament pool is just good clean fun.

    Of course, there are letter of the law sorts who wouldn’t be caught dead putting a nickel in a slot machine but who thinks it’s just fine to risk/bet thousands of dollars on daytrading action through an online trader every day. Go figure.
    Dave | Email | Homepage | 04.04.05 – 7:28 pm | #

    Yeah, that would have been nice to just say, “gambling is wrong!” But something I’ve been wondering is aside from these new specifics, did President Hinckley say anything new (aside from emphasis)? I mean, we’ve always known gambling is wrong. It seems that the only new information is what will now be the “no more poker” rule (akin to the “no R-rated movie rule, but I digress).

    I considered writing about daytrading (and the nature of risk) but decided not to. It is a really interesting topic. President Hinckley is actually wrong in saying that gamblers don’t get a fair return. It’s just that they don’t get it often enough for it to be considered a safe risk. There are professional gamblers out there that have eliminated a lot of the risk (in the same way that I eliminate risk when I research a company I consider investing in). Ugh, there is so much gray area here that could fill volumes. I think John is right, saying “gambling is wrong!” might have been a better solution than to add the value argument.
    Rusty | Email | Homepage | 04.04.05 – 7:42 pm | #

    The problem here is that the prophet realizes that the people he is going to be talking to, the people who need to hear this are going to justify themselves. The person who gets addicted to risk is never going to know this until after they try it for a while, and then it’s too late. They are going to say, hey, that’s not me. I’m not really gambling. I can handle this. It’s not so bad. So he spent a whole talk outlining as clearly as he could what he meant by gambling so that we can’t get around it. So that whatever else we can do, we can’t say we haven’t been warned.
    Add to this what I see as a very large new trend that seems to be questioning whether we really have to take seriously what the prophet says if it isn’t clearly in the standard works already, and he’s got to do even more to make it very clear that he’s not just talking about “hard” gambling or high stakes gambling or gambling that you can’t afford, and that he menas that it is the official position of the church and so on and so on just to get it accross to people that he’s serious and he’s talking to them, and that they are supposed to really listen and do it.
    the standard office NCAA tournament pool is just good clean fun.
    Wasn’t his example about the guy who thought it wasn’t gambling because he was just putting some money in a pot and the winner gets it explicit enough? How much more plain could he be?
    Stephen Hancock | Email | Homepage | 04.04.05 – 7:54 pm | #

    A couple things: first of all, I don’t think it’s a new trend to question the prophet, it’s as old as humankind. However, I’d like to distinguish myself as someone that is trying to understand the Prophet, his intent, and my feelings, NOT someone that is questioning “whether I have to take what the Prophet says seriously”. I want to take it seriously, but I want to understand first what I am to supposed to take seriously. Please don’t jump the gun condemning bloggers that are sincerely trying to work out their understanding of the Gospel.

    Secondly, I confess that I wasn’t at the priesthood meeting so I didn’t hear everything word for word. I read some very good (I thought) notes soon after the session ended. Therefore, I was ignorant to his words about the “just putting some money in a pot and the winner gets it” If I would have known he said something along those lines, I probably would have written this post differently.

    When you said, “the standard office NCAA tournament pool is just good clean fun.” I’m not sure if you’re quoting someone or if you’re making that statement, but you’re following statement kinda contradicts it. I agree with that statement, but when you say it, you’re saying that that form of gambling is okay. Which is it? Some form of “good, clean, fun” forms of gambling are okay? Or none?
    Rusty | Email | Homepage | 04.04.05 – 8:15 pm | #

    I understand that investing in the stock market might appear close to gambling, and for some it certainly is. But it seems like an altogether different species upon closer examination. That is, because people are willing to invest in the market, companies are able to raise capital through public offerings. What happens after the initial public offering–with people buying and selling, in effect wagering based on the success of the company–could almost be considered gambling, as Dave noted, but this activity is socially productive. Our economy depends on this type of market activity to keep growing. Thus, trading in the stock market, as a general matter, adds value to society, allowing companies to produce and create jobs. I would guess that President Hinckley would not have kind words for someone who is addicted to day trading; but I don’t think it is the same as the gambling to which President Hinckley is referring.
    john fowles | Email | Homepage | 04.04.05 – 8:27 pm | #

    Count me as one who was happy to hear President Hinckley speak out against gambling.

    I have no objection to games. I do object to gaming, whether it’s casino gambling or state-run lotteries (which are essentially education taxes levied on the uneducated and ignorant).
    Chris Williams | Email | Homepage | 04.04.05 – 8:43 pm | #

    C’mon Chris, that was a pretty wimpy way out. Of course we’re all “against gambling” and hopefully none of us have any “objection to games”. The question is where is the crossover?
    Rusty | Email | Homepage | 04.04.05 – 8:48 pm | #


    I don’t think your attempt to rescue capital markets quite works. After all, when one gambles in Vegas, one is certainly contributing to the local economy, helping produce jobs, etc. I think there are certainly distinctions between buying and selling stock and gambling, but I don’t think “adds value to society” does the work.

    Coincidentally, I spoke with a fellow in my ward who was thinking about dropping out of his fantasy baseball league because it cost 20 bucks and he stood to win 150 bucks. I thought this was crazy: clearly fantasy baseball is a game of skill, not of chance, right?
    Greg Call | Email | Homepage | 04.04.05 – 9:16 pm | #

    I was mostly expressing the frustration I felt as I watched the conference session. It really felt to me like Pres. Hinkley was deliberately going to excess to try and make it clear that the church was against “all” gambling, and I got the sense that he was trying to close off the loopholes he could anticipate people creating. I was trying, mostly to provide a rationale for his being so specific. If he just says no gambling, people say, hey I’m not doing what I consider gambling, and they don’t change behaviors that he’s trying to tell them they should change. I felt for the prophet who was trying to be plain.
    The part about the tournament in my post was a quote from Dave’s comment, but I got the tags wrong. I am in favor of not doing office pools.
    As far as the no value argument, I think it is valid. What value is added by playing games of chance for money (or m&ms) that isn’t there if you play for points, chips, etc? Unless of course, what lures you is the chance that you will actually end up with more money, getting something for nothing, which is another part of Pres. Hinkley’s message.
    Stephen Hancock | Email | Homepage | 04.04.05 – 9:22 pm | #

    No more Chutes and Ladders for me!
    Anonymous | Email | Homepage | 04.04.05 – 11:20 pm | #

    Ironically, long before this conference, my unofficial mental rule was less-than-five-dollars-isn’t-a-big-deal. Whew! Good thing it wasn’t less-than-OR-EQUAL-to…

    No, but really, in my dozen or so trips to Las Vegas, I have gambled a couple times, if you can call it that. Have you ever tried to loose three dollars in Vegas on nickel slots? Betchya can’t beat my record of 30 minutes (it usually takes well over an hour). It’s actually quite a fun game and a nice social event (err.. for some). Return on investment wise, I’m occupied and having fun for less than it costs per hour to watch a movie!

    My beef isn’t exactly with what President Hinckley said, per se, it’s with all the repercussions it causes as it flows throughout the Church. Remember when he said something about having more than one set of earrings? That STILL hasn’t subsided all the way, and we (primary teachers) have to continually remind kids in the primary that there are good people, heaven forbid, who have more than one earring per ear.

    In other words, little will change in how I live my life. What scares me is how overnight the perception of those who gamble with even $5 will be intensified further fueling finger pointing at me as a bad example of…something. Or worse, a non-member friend zoning in on the most mundane aspects of our religion (more appropriately, our culture) when, in fact, there is so much more that is oh-so interesting, which we may never get to.

    It looks like gambling (or anything remotely akin to it) will be the R rating of 2005. On the flipside, with this help subside the rated R dilemma? I only hope so.
    Bob Caswell | Email | Homepage | 04.05.05 – 12:45 am | #

    I was sitting there trying to think of a good defense/answer to your question “What value is added by playing games of chance for money (or m&ms) that isn’t there if you play for points, chips, etc?” and I couldn’t come up with anything. My initial thought is that it adds excitement (because there is a chance that I can get something for nothing) oops, bad answer. You might be right.

    (again, I think talking this over with people helps me understand it better, so thank you)

    Well said. I agree that it’s not what President Hinckley said that bothers me (because I agree with him), it’s the way that everyone will react to it. Less than 24 hours after it was said I was having a conversation with a friend who suggested that ALL poker was out from now on. I guess it’s that kind of a reaction (I’ll see your council, and raise you a law of moses!) that I oppose.
    Rusty | Email | Homepage | 04.05.05 – 1:15 am | #

    By the way, Rusty, I have an answer for you to convey to Stephen:

    You can’t fit chips into a nickel slot! If you could, then sure, I’d use the chip slots.
    Bob Caswell | Email | Homepage | 04.05.05 – 1:19 am | #

    The timing of President Hinckley’s talk was interesting to me. Gambling is a HUGE problem at a local high school here. The Stake President very recently replaced the given Stake Priesthood session “pornography” talk with a stern lecture on gambling. These kids are winning and losing $100/day, but aren’t feeling the effects since they’re families have more money than they know what to do with. His message was that he didn’t want the members to get comfortable with gambling. Many 12-year olds could go to Vegas right now and feel in their element sitting at the tables. This could be a Mesa, AZ thing, and I’d be curious to know how big a problem it is in other areas.

    Office pools and fantasy sports really do take too much skill (with a little luck mixed in) to be considered gambling. I picked North Carolina to win my bracket. They were a top team all year. So did I gamble by choosing them? I feel like I’m slipping into justification mode, but I feel good about the fact my wife knows about every bracket I purchase and which fantasy league I’m participating in, along with the cost. That and knowing the money at stake is secondary to the enjoyment will always work for me.
    Rob | Email | Homepage | 04.05.05 – 2:15 am | #

    Can someone please explain to me why gambling is wrong?

    I can see how some of the attendant social phenomena (addiction, corruption, etc.) are wrong, but what’s wrong with gambling?
    Steve Evans | Email | Homepage | 04.05.05 – 11:49 am | #

    I suspect, Steve, that the real issue is much broader than gambling. It’s gotta extend to playing solitaire on the computer, playing Halo, and, Heaven forfend, blogging!

    How, after all do you square all those things with the following statements:

    Regarding the church welfare programs: “a system under which the curse of idleness would be done away with, the evils of the dole abolished, and independence, industry, thrift and self-respect be once more established amongst the people.”

    Or: “men should be anxiously engaged in a good cause . . .”
    Mark B. | Email | Homepage | 04.05.05 – 12:16 pm | #

    If gambling causes those things, then that is why gambling is wrong.
    john fowles | Email | Homepage | 04.05.05 – 12:19 pm | #

    Bob said the bad thing with President Hinckley’s message was that the reaction to it would be upsetting. He was referring to people following the prophet and trying to rid their lives of gambling and teach their kids not to gamble. This is bad, according to Bob, because people (like him?) who are going to disregard the prophet’s admonition might be viewed as less obedient by the fellow Latter-day Saints. True, in a perfect world noone would judge another based on their level of obedience to the prophet. But we are all imperfect, and I concede that this might be a result of President Hinckley’s talk: people might look at Bob and wonder why he is still gambling after such a direct statement by the prophet.

    This is not the only “reaction” to such direct counsel to avoid gambling that is bad. Do you consider your own reaction, Bob, to the counsel to be bad? In other words, you have stated that it will be bad that Latter-day Saints will now look at those who continue gambling as if they are less obedient (they are, after all, less obedient). But isn’t it also bad that now there will be much criticism of the counsel? Which is worse, obeying the counsel and looking sideways at those who don’t; or rejecting the counsel and criticizing the prophet for such an unwise move as to give counsel that some might disobey?
    john fowles | Email | Homepage | 04.05.05 – 12:25 pm | #

    Rusty, Good post! I know your dad used to go to Vegas every year for the theater owner’s convention and would allocate $200 to the blackjack table. It was very entertaining for him, cheaper than going to a couple of the “shows” on the strip. (Blackjack doesn’t leave any 1/2 naked women images on the brain either) He even got to play with Jody Foster and Angela Landsbury. Is it entertaining? YES! Is it fun? Yes! Can it be justified as being ok with past and present council? NO! And that’s the problem.

    Justification seems to be our goal. Anything to make what we want to do ok. There is nothing wrong with living the letter of the law…as long as we include the spirit as we do.

    (By the way Rusty, you dad has been to Vegas 6 times in the past 5 years and he’s $1200 ahead)
    Don | Email | Homepage | 04.05.05 – 12:47 pm | #

    it adds excitement (because there is a chance that I can get something for nothing)

    It adds excitement because there is a chance I can prove that I know more about sports than anybody else. Better answer? Oh, well. I’m going to keep playing (NCAA pools, that is)and donating any winnings to the local ARC.
    Last Lemming | Email | Homepage | 04.05.05 – 12:47 pm | #

    “In other words, you have stated that it will be bad that Latter-day Saints will now look at those who continue gambling as if they are less obedient (they are, after all, less obedient).”

    John Fowles,

    No, they are NOT less obedient, because I wasn’t referring only to LDS people. Hence, LDS people finding an arbitrary rule for themselves just sets the stage for them to apply those same standards to good people who don’t even know who President Hinckley is. I see this time and time again and find it sad because I happen to know good people who drink, smoke, and/or gamble who I admire without letting my initial judgment shut them out of the “good” people pool (and there is no question of obedience).

    And for the record, being less obedient is pretty underrated (especially when it’s within the context of specific interpretation of counsel givers rather than eternal gospel truths). Come on, John, the invitation is still open. You’re invited any time to watch a rated R movie at my place.

    And Angel Landsbury?! Cool!!
    Bob Caswell | Email | Homepage | 04.05.05 – 3:43 pm | #

    I have a simple rule that helps me keep everything in perspective. I only gamble the money I save by sneaking treats into movie theaters. (j/k)
    danithew | Email | Homepage | 04.05.05 – 3:46 pm | #

    It seems your argument is that if it takes skill, it’s okay (fantasy baseball). That’s nice, but what about professional gamblers? They’re pretty good. And that doesn’t even touch on the day-trader issue. Also, you said that the money is secondary to the enjoyment. Why not just have the enjoyment, why does money have to be involved? (I’m stepping in for Stephen H as he is currently absent from this conversation)

    That’s a mighty good question. The answer to that might help me understand if it’s still okay to play poker for candy. Because if there is something INHERENTLY wrong with it, we shouldn’t be doing it no matter the currency. However, if it’s only about money and addiction, then we should only be addressing gambling as a catalyst to the social phenomena you mentioned.

    Marc B,
    Are you suggesting that your son’s seminary teacher shouldn’t encourage your son to play Halo with him anymore?

    John F,
    If gambling causes those things, then that is why gambling is wrong.

    If Church basketball causes tempers to flare, then Church basketball is wrong. If driving cars cause accidents, driving cars is wrong. If blogging causes contention, blogging is wrong…

    Also, John, I don’t think Bob is criticizing the council, I think he’s criticizing those who will over-define the council and use it as a benchmark for righteousness.

    Funny you suggest that $200 for blackjack is cheaper than shows on the strip, as if it’s an either/or situation. But I get what you’re saying. You say you’re $1200 ahead, but you COULD be $12,000 ahead if you knew what you were doing!

    Last Lemming,
    Yeah, I guess there are other motivations for gambling (or whatever you want to call office pools and fantasy sports). Pride is a good one. So is it gambling if the only thing on the table is your pride? (maybe Pres. Hinckley would say that you SHOULD gamble that away
    Rusty | Email | Homepage | 04.05.05 – 4:01 pm | #

    That’s funny.
    Rusty | Email | Homepage | 04.05.05 – 4:02 pm | #

    Thanks Dan, if all the people who sneak food into my theater spent the savings on gambling the church would really have a problem….or maybe they are and that’s why Pres. Hinckley made his comments. (I wish he would have said quit sneaking food in).

    Rusty, I was good, you’re right it could have been $12,000, but then again it could have been -$1200 or more 00000s.
    Don | Email | Homepage | 04.05.05 – 5:31 pm | #

    Not gambling, Rusty, gaming. The industry built around separating fools — or the poor and uneducated — from their money. Casinos, state lotteries, professional poker tournaments, etc.

    I have no particular concern about NCAA pools — unless, of course, the pool is just one of several games one feels compelled to join.
    Chris Williams | Email | Homepage | 04.05.05 – 8:31 pm | #

    This is a very interesting discussion. It at first was easy for me to just say we should avoid all gambling whatsoever because that’s what the prophet said and hey, I have never done any sort of gambling in my life so why not? (it’s easy for me, so everyone else should have no trouble following it, right?)
    However, when compared with the discussion on rated R movies, it really DOES get murky. It’s like Rusty said I think, what about gambling is INHERENTLY wrong with it. I think the prophet was so specific because he knows his audience and is trying to solve many of the problems and questions he’s going to face ahead of time.
    Just saying “I bet you” does not mean gambling. If that was the case most any form of bribery or reward could be considered gambling. One example is how in my apartment if one of our roommates kisses a girl, then we owe him a pizza. Is this a not a bet since we didn’t say “I bet you can’t get a girl to kiss you, if you do I owe you a pizza”?
    Anyway, whatever. So what’s your guy’s bet for the next pope? Mine is on the cardinal from Honduras as his odds (according to a group in Ireland) are 11 to 4.
    Bret | Email | Homepage | 04.05.05 – 10:26 pm | #

    I thought this was crazy: clearly fantasy baseball is a game of skill, not of chance, right?

    Depending on who you ask, so are certain versions of Poker, which is why some states have, in the past, legalized “Lo-Ball” poker while outlawing other forms.
    Mark N. | Email | Homepage | 04.05.05 – 11:41 pm | #

    Return on investment wise, I’m occupied and having fun for less than it costs per hour to watch a movie!

    Ah, but, you see: if you were of the right “spiritual” frame of mind, that wouldn’t strike you as being fun at all. You’d simply see it as a colossal waste of time.

    Isn’t calling people to repentence fun?
    Mark N. | Email | Homepage | 04.05.05 – 11:43 pm | #

    Mark N.,

    Yeah, it always sucks when I find out that having fun has to do little with what I think of as having fun… But I still love the Church nonetheless.

    “…I think he’s criticizing those who will over-define the council and use it as a benchmark for righteousness.”


    Thanks for giving everyone the Readers’ digest version of my wordy thoughts. And I think you’re on to something with your question as to the “inherent wrongness” of poker. I’d like to know the answer so that if has anything to do with the cards, I can throw out my inherently wrong Uno set.

    But if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to go have fun by doing some hometeaching!
    Bob Caswell | Email | Homepage | 04.06.05 – 12:26 am | #

    I wasn’t able to catch conference this time (the reason why could probably be its own post), and I’m way too lazy to do much checking around to get the context surrounding Prez Hinckley’s talk, but I’m willing to live with the resulting credibility gap. And I’m sure people will be happy to fill me in if I need it. Okay, disclaimer out of the way. . .

    Going back to what President Hinckley said in Rusty’s first paragraph, what I see is the reason Prez H. doesn’t gamble. He explained it: he doesn’t get any value from gambling. This is probably a bit radical for very many people to agree with me, but I think he was giving his opinion, trying to convince us as a very experienced, very credible, very wise, very inspired man not to gamble. I don’t think he meant to say “the Lord says that gambling is always wrong, and the reason is that it offers nothing of value in return.” Much like the infamous “only one pair of earrings” talk, he’s telling us that he doesn’t see any reason someone should have more earrings than that. Fine. Maybe when we’re all as close to the Spirit as Prez H. we’ll all agree. But for now, as I’m trying to become more like Christ in my own life, I don’t see it the same way — his argument didn’t convince me — and I’m extroardinarily happy to be in a Church that won’t kick me out (or keep me from the temple, release me from the EQ presidency, whatever) for wanting to decide some things for myself about what kind of person I want to be.
    Logan | Email | Homepage | 04.06.05 – 8:19 am | #

    Er, sorry not to give you any paragraph breaks in that last comment.
    Logan | Email | Homepage | 04.06.05 – 8:20 am | #


    It is nice that advice from Church leaders (even the prophet) rarely gets turned into a new Word of Wisdom or a new temple recommend interview.

    We should more actively praise the relationship we have with our Church.
    Bob Caswell | Email | Homepage | 04.06.05 – 10:22 am | #

    What you’re doing is talking is the whole “advice vs. council vs. commandment” debate. Which one of these was it? Different people will have different answers.

    It’s interesting that I find myself agreeing very much with a part of what John Fowles said in the very first comment, that it’s too bad President Hinckley didn’t just come out and say “Gambling is wrong. Period. It is spiritually harmful” because then we would sit back and say, “I don’t understand WHY he said gambling is wrong, but it must be because he said it.” Now, since we got his explanation we find ourselves disagreeing with it because it is so often not true. It’s as if he were to say, “the reason we don’t drink coffee is because of the caffeine” and then people go off and say that caffeine is against the WoW. (I don’t think anything I just said makes sense…)

    My problem, my original intent of this post is that I still don’t understand what constitutes gambling. Poker? Or poker with money? Or no poker but betting for money? Is it the money, is it the cards, is it the risk, what is it that makes it gambling?
    Rusty | Email | Homepage | 04.06.05 – 12:12 pm | #

    What I got from listening to the talk was that gambling is wrong because it is trying to get something for nothing. So, whatever you may do to try and achieve that is gambling and is wrong.
    Now, if I can just figure out what all THAT encompasses…
    Bret | Email | Homepage | 04.06.05 – 1:24 pm | #

    Bret, I think that really is part of the whole struggle here…is it only gambling when you hope to get something for nothing? If that really is the definition, then is there entertainment value, is there value in having “fun” doing it at Vegas, or doing it with your buddies?

    Can the something you’re hoping to get be “I won”, or beans or toothpicks?

    I also agree with John, if Prez. H would have only said all forms of gambling are bad it would have been easier. But then again, we wouldn’t be having this discussion if he had!
    Don | Email | Homepage | 04.06.05 – 1:42 pm | #

    I can’t imagine gambling consists of “getting something for nothing” because that is the base of ALL negotiation! You want to get the most and pay the least. Plus, when someone says, “ooh, I don’t know, that’s a gamble” they are talking more about risk than they are about getting something for nothing.

    Additionally, I agree with Don, that according to your (President Hinckley’s) definition, playing with candy is wrong as well. $5 worth of candy has the same value as $5. What is it about the green paper that makes it so much more evil?
    Rusty | Email | Homepage | 04.06.05 – 3:06 pm | #


    You asked why money had to be involved. It really doesn’t. In fact, I participate in two football and one baseball fantasy league every year. Only one of the leagues costs money. The money at stake does absolutely NOTHING to add enjoyment. However, since it is a requirement to join the league and I enjoy being in the league, I participate and pay the fee (which could turn into a payout…gambling?). The same goes with NCAA pools. I got an offer from a friend to join his pool. The cost was $10. The alternative was to not join or initiate a free pool, which I didn’t have the interest in. Don’t ask me what place got how much, because I didn’t care. I wanted to join the pool, compete against friends and have a good time. For me, that enjoyment happened to cost $10. From that point of view, it’s enjoyment. If I was looking for a way to pay my bills, it’s unwise. You could also call it “gambling” or “risky”, but that’s beside the point.

    Should I feel guilty for never having felt guilty? I’m predicting President Hinckley’s next talk will be on video games.
    Rob | Email | Homepage | 04.06.05 – 7:32 pm | #

    Rusty, I don’t believe you’ve understood me. I don’t think this statement was “counsel” or “commandment”. I think it was Prez H’s views on gambling. I don’t think he gives “commandments”. Has he ever? Have I just missed them?

    Depending on your definition of “counsel”, I suppose this may be that, although it doesn’t fit my own definition.

    What I’m telling you is that I’m annoyed to simply be pigeon-holed as an “oh, you’re on the counsel side of the great divide” person.

    But if you’re asking what kind of gambling he’s talking about, I think betting for candy and office pools are included in his definition. I think it’s clear that he would personally frown on both of those and on poker, with or without money (although in my opinion betting is an essential aspect of poker).

    I think your question misses the point, though. What good does knowing the answer do? What if his definition is the broadest that we can think of? What would that mean, what would change?

    Drawing a clear line is something that the Brethren just won’t do on something like this — it would be even more disastrous than the ambiguity. You can’t spell out what to do in every single circumstance, nor is it worth it for something of as little intrinsic relevance to our souls as gambling, although heaven knows the Pharisees tried. It’s just not what he’s setting out to do. Unfortunately, members of the Church keep wanting that very thing from him and reacting to his talks as though he were trying to determine every choice we make.
    Logan | Email | Homepage | 04.06.05 – 8:47 pm | #

    We shouldn’t judge people for anything they happen to have done. Sometimes good people just don’t know better or even mess up and do wrong things. If they don’t try to consciously get me to break my own standards, great. I think it is, indeed, a bad thing when people decide that their transgressions are forgivable and other people’s must be thought of as making them unworthy of fellowship. Granted. Good advice.
    “But for now, as I’m trying to become more like Christ in my own life,”
    We all have to decide what we are trying to do to be obedient in our lives. Some people are working on one thing. Some people are working on another. Granted. A principle in there somewhere as long as we’re honest with ourselves. I hope we never think what we are working on is what everyone should be working on.
    We have to separate, however, these issues from the fact that Pres. Hinkley was really preaching his heart out up there to get us to take him seriously. We can’t set the counsel aside because we don’t like the way some people will get self-righteous about it. (I know that not everyone here is saying that.)Those people will find a way to get self-righteous about something. We also cannot simply say, hey, good advice. Sorry, don’t really feel like any today. We all have things we haven’t gotten around to fixing in our lives. In the mean time, that means recognizing that we aren’t always obedient, not convincing ourselves we are obedient, no matter how obedient we happen to be.
    I am certainly willing to grant that there might still be some degree, however small, here, of ambiguity about the counsel. The problem comes however, for me when someone hears the talk, says, “I’m giving up poker,” or the office pool, or whatever, and someone is ready to call them pharisaical, self-righteous, crazy, or whatever else because they’re treating the words of the prophet as counsel from their god. (If the last part of that sounds more personal than the rest, it has less to do with this issue than related issues.)
    Steve H | Email | Homepage | 04.07.05 – 2:35 am | #

    Hmm. Ok so Im still alittle confused here. Growing up and all my knowlege previous to this confrence led me to believe that gambling was wrong due to what surrounds it. (I.E. Addictions etc) Gambling or more specifically gamming, is not wrong or evil as so many of you are on the verge of saying, but those sins that surround it. Satan has always had his perversions of things, sex isnt evil its one of the most beautiful things in this life, but outside of marriage it is.
    So from what has been stated by most of you is that gambling is evil because of the risk or the money or the lack of “return”. In comparison to movies this is a joke. Ive seen some pretty bad movies in my life, the return was nothing. So was it evil of me to see this movie cause I wasted time, and money? Based on your arguments that since it wasnt productive and I was trying to get something for nothing, it was evil. And like Rusty said, when gambling you place a great deal of skill or knowlege into it. If you went into a casino and slapped money down with out even knowing the rules…I’m sorry but you deserve to be taken blind.
    What I see comming from this is like what Bob said of our members making the ever so common judgments upon eachother. OR the letter of the law lovers will take this new rule to the hoop and start laying down how all types of games are evil since theyre all for entertainment, provide nothing of value in return, and we need to spend our time reading the scriptures praying and spending time with loved ones…with whom you can no longer play games.
    Bryce | Email | Homepage | 04.07.05 – 6:59 am | #

    One more thought though…since I pay to play Xbox Live with my brothers, where I get nothing of “value” according to the defanitions above, and I risk never using it and losing my money, is that gambling?
    Bryce | Email | Homepage | 04.07.05 – 7:01 am | #

    Steve H, I thought your comment was well and respectfully put. I appreciate that level of understanding in blogging discussions.

    One thing I’d like to bring up is regarding the way it has been brought up (not necessarily by Steve, although he alluded to it, but more explicitly by others) that it is important to take President Hinckley’s words seriously and not just disregard them. In my mind ‘taking seriously’ and ‘blindly following’ are not the same thing. That’s not to say that they are in anyone else’s mind, either — just to point out that whatever people come away from this discussion having decided about this issue, I think we’ve been doing just that: taking these words seriously enough to discuss them openly and with an open mind. I applaud Rusty for bringing it up.
    Logan | Email | Homepage | 04.07.05 – 7:25 am | #


    If you were me, the X-box live would be much worse than gambling. You’d waste too much time, drive away your wife and would have no way to win back any of the money you put into it. You would have fun though.
    Rob | Email | Homepage | 04.07.05 – 3:44 pm | #

    A couple things I’ll toss out here. I think a lot of the direction we’re given, including the WoW, is so that we’ll err on the side of caution. (Is it really such a deprivation to give up whatever form of gambling you indulge in? And what does that say?)

    One of the reasons I personally think gambling is wrong is that it just seems like throwing money away. It seems so wasteful.

    Funny aside: My grandma-in-law was travelling through Vegas years ago with her young son, and he wanted to try a slot machine. To demonstrate to him how bad gambling was, she allowed him to put a nickel in, thinking he’d lose and it’d make a better impression than just telling him. I’m sure you know what happened.

    He hit the jackpot.
    Susan M | Email | Homepage | 04.11.05 – 8:48 pm | #

    It is interesting how few posters here commented on the number of kids playing poker and the addiction that is sweeping many high schools. It was interesting to watch my sixteen year-old eat up the prophet’s words on gambling and then turn and start talking about just how right he is.

    Not to mention the way lotteries grip some people.

    Yes, there are some people who are paying out as an entry fee for entertainment. When we lived in Vegas, my dad had guys in his shop who would buy two keno cards (at twenty-five cents each) in order to pick up the complementary drinks and the free show.

    But I also have a vivid memory of watching an older lady come in, cash her check, and put the entire thing into the slot machines behind her and then shuffle out.

    As for I considered writing about daytrading the two studies I saw both reflected that at the six month point, all traders had lost money vs. just putting the money in an index fund and watching it. The only thing that masked what was happening was the fact the market was rising at the time.

    Yes, there are professional gamblers. Especially with modern gambling odds which are calculated to give the house a profit based on the way people are gambling rather than the true odds — the essence for the successful ones I’ve had any knowledge of was that they had no emotional involvement in the sports or areas where they gambled. Drier than bond trading.

    Anyway, my two bits on a topic that is probably exhausted.

    It is a real problem, yes, the speaker probably has no contact with people who are paying the money as an entry fee, though those people are a small, small part of the gaming industry, formal or informal, and merely add to its strength.

    Reminds me of a friend of mine who used to say p0rn was ok for him, since he didn’t have any sexual involvement or attachment to it. Maybe so, but he was still supporting something that was bad for society by participating in it.

    My two bits.
    Stephen M (Ethesis) | Email | Homepage | 04.17.05 – 9:43 am | #


    You make some good points. But what about the friendly games among friends and family? These do not support the industry. If I play once a month with some of my colleagues and enjoy a few hours of entertainment, how is this bad? If we get together and play Monopoly, this is OK but if we play poker for a nominal fee and very small pot, it isn’t? What about entry fees to sports tournaments? I have never gambled at a casino and do not bet on sports. Before Pres. Hinckley’s talk I would play about once a month in game of Hold’Em with some friends of mine. 20 bucks each. I used the movie analogy. Pres. Hinckley attacked that rationale in his talk and I now feel like I can’t play in this game and be obedient to his counsel. Indeed, he seemed to infer that even watching poker on TV might be bad. I will follow the prophet even if I don’t see the wisdom in his words. But one thing I have a problem with generally is using the addictive behavior of some as a basis for a rule of prohibition against all. It seems to me that what was driving this is concern about the folks who are quitting school and gambling away the family’s grocery money on the Internet and in casinos. A wife or mother writes a weepy letter and suddenly there is a great problem that needs fixing. There are folks who are getting addicted to all sorts of things and who are acting unwisely in a whole host of areas. Should their foolishness be the basis of proscribing behavior of those who are not so susceptible to addiction?
    Eric | Email | Homepage | 05.27.05 – 3:59 pm | #



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