White Bar
Brigham Young University-Idaho Forum

May 21, 2009



Gambling: A Losing Bet

An Investment of Psychological Principles in Spiritual Bankruptcy

Richard B. Cluff

Psychology Department Faulty Member


Richard Cluff












An introduction like that tends to make one feel old.  Upon hearing it my wife suggested that, actually, one of my best accomplishments was when I was a "tree" in her ward road show....I had no speaking lines!


I would like to begin by expressing appreciation to the forum committee, President Broadhead, Dean Thurgood, my colleagues and good friends; all of whom have shown my sweetheart, Ann, and I great kindness this day. I have already learned a great deal simply through the process of being asked to take part in this forum and all that entails.


I hope you will enjoy our experience together today. I request your faith and prayers to be joined with mine, inviting the Spirit that all may be edified and find value in this hour as we discuss the topic of gambling. Since your time is as valuable as anyone else's let's jump right to the heart of today's discussion. I have limited our discussion today to games of chance since the majority of all gambling revenues come from this class of gaming. Acknowledging that there are differences between what are referred to as games of chance and games of skill, many of the same principles we discuss today will nonetheless apply to both.


According to National studies, more than 50% of the population plays the lottery, and more than 33% frequent casinos on a regular basis.1 Depending on the state surveyed and public access to gambling sites, it is estimated that from 74 (Georgia) to 91% (Washington State) of the population have gambled at some time in their life.2


One survey reports that 84% of respondents believe casino gambling is acceptable for themselves or others.3 And in a national survey, 75% of Americans who attend religious services at least once a week considered casino gaming an acceptable form of entertainment.4


As stated by Timothy L. O'Brien, in his book Bad Bet, "Gambling is now more popular in America than baseball, the movies, and Disneyland - combined" 5


Given these statistics it is likely that many of you in this room today have had some experience with gambling or know someone who has.


Over the years I have used the example of gambling in my general psychology classes to summarize the principles of learning theory. I do this because I know of no more masterful application of psychological principles and behavioral research than that used by casinos and those involved in promoting gambling. As experts in employing these principles to their desired ends, certainly they qualify among those whom the Lord expressly warned us against in Section 89, verse 4 of the Doctrine and Covenants:

 Behold, verily, thus saith the Lord unto you: In consequence of evils and designs which do and will exist in the hearts of conspiring men in the last days, I have warned you, and forewarn you.

My purpose today is to uncover some of these "designs" by looking at the reasons people gamble and then consider the consequences of these choices.  The following is a list of the most common reasons researchers and thousands of my students have provided for why a person might gamble:




1)  To make money:


According to a survey conducted by the National Gambling Impact Study Commission, as many as 78% (56-78%) of respondents admitted that the reason they gamble is for the money.6


Let's look at this reason: Is it possible to make money in the short-run at games of chance? Yes it is.  But only if two conditions hold: 


First, you have to be the lucky 1 in 135,145,920.  Given those odds, you are more likely to be struck by lightning (1/700,000), killed by a terrorist (1/650,000), and die from flesh-eating bacteria (1/1,000,000).7 In other words: not very likely. Although I may have just given some of you something else to worry about!


Second, you have to stop gambling and never, ever, ever, gamble again. But what happens as soon as someone wins? You have seen them at the gas stations when someone wins $10 on a scratch'n play game. Immediately they purchase 10 more tickets, scratch them off and throw them away.


Is it possible to make money at games of chance in the long run?  No.


To understand why, let's suppose you had a vat full of equal amounts of red, white and blue marbles. With the help of Brother Craig Johnson from the math department, I employed a random number generator to randomly draw marbles from the vat to demonstrate this principle. Suppose a white marble represented a win. Since you have one third of each color your odds of winning are 1:3 or a 33% probability. However, with each successive draw from the large vat your odds of pulling out multiple white marbles in a row significantly reduces with each succeeding draw such that the more times you draw; i.e. the more times you gamble, the more your pile of marbles will begin to look like the pile you are drawing from. The more times you gamble the more your wins to losses have to look like the system that is built into the game. You cannot escape it.


Since you cannot make money in the long run, why then, do people continue to gamble?


2) Curiosity


Curiosity is frequently the motivation for first time players. Suppose you are on a layover at the Las Vegas airport and happen to have 4 quarters in your pocket. Now you shouldn't do this, but in a moment of weakness you decide to place a quarter in the slot machine and pull the handle. The wheels spin, lights flash, clinking sounds peal out periodically and the reels come to a rest: 7, 7, bars. You place another quarter: bars, bars, cherries. Your third quarter: bars, cherries, cherries. Of course, unbeknownst to you, these doubles are built into the system to make it look like you were just that close to a jackpot. Last quarter: bars, bars, ........bars!!!!!!!!!!  Bells ring, the machine shakes, and your tray fills up with quarters.


Now, of course you are not going to put these newly obtained quarters back into the same machine, so you gather up your rewards and find a machine that others have been playing a while without a win. That machine will only hold so much, so it is due for a win....right? So off you go. You get through half of your winnings and you hit another jackpot so off you go looking for the next machine that has not recently paid out. Never mind that you have missed your connecting flight, you are making money right? Three hours later you are down to your last quarter. You pull the arm, the wheels spin and stop: 7, 7................bars. You had a bucket of quarters and now you have none. You look around and see a man who has been watching you feed this machine all of your quarters. What do you do? Out comes your credit card ... and you are "hooked!"


As this example demonstrates, the subtlety is that people forget the machines do not keep track of your individual investments. They are only set up to guarantee that the overall intake exceeds the overall outgo. Casinos advertise returns on some of their machines to be as high as 90-95%. What these figures mean is that the machines are designed so that over time they will take in (that means you will lose) 5 to 10% more than the machine ever awards in a jackpot, regardless of how big the jackpot is. This is why casinos never lose. Unfortunately, and by design of the advertisement, people therefore assume they will eventually receive back 95% of their investment. According to a recent study,8 in actuality the average return from any machine is 60-70% and the average return for an evening of play as low as 40%. Why? First, because of the same reason we discussed previously: players reinvest their winnings. If a player continues to reinvest their 95% winnings, again at a 5% loss each time, over and over their return will eventually be zero. As we demonstrated with the marbles, the system and the odds are guaranteed; the more you play, the more your pile of marbles--that is, your win's to losses--will look like the system you are playing. Second, what most do not understand is that this 95% is a global, not individual return. Since every once in a while someone wins a big jackpot this means that this person received a significant portion of your 95% return which means your individual return cannot be 95%. So many continue to gamble expecting that promised 95% return when, in reality someone else has already taken it while the casino is taking your money to pay for it. On the other hand the unfortunate winner now believes that he or she can win more than they put in so.... they continue to play; looking for another win....


Also, as illustrated in the airport example, casinos capitalize on a social psychological principle called the gambler's fallacy which is a common error in thinking. Most people, gamblers included, understand that you have equal chance of winning regardless of which machine you play. After all they are all set to reward that 95% of 100% played. Yet, as demonstrated in our airport example when all the quarters have been placed in the machine and someone else has watched you do that; most people will now claim that the chances of winning on that particular machine are higher because it has been a long while since it has paid out. That is the gambler's fallacy. For example, if you had a coin and five tosses resulted in "tails, heads, tails, tails, and tails, then what would you guess then next toss would be?  Most people will say heads because there have been three tails in a row. However, the odds are still 50/50. This error in thinking contributes to the compulsive gambler's belief that after a string of losses they are now even more likely to win so they continue, sometimes with even more determination, to chase their losses by making even larger bets, convinced that a win is inevitable and a larger bet will "save" them when the win comes. The reality, of course, is that the odds are always the same regardless of what the history of the machine has been.


With technological advances, VLT's or Video Lottery Terminals--sometimes called the "fast-food version of gambling" or the "crack cocaine of gambling"--have replaced many slot machines increasing the addictive power of the gambler's fallacy.9  VLT's look like slot machines, but they are networked to a central computer. Thus, the computer, not the individual machines, determines where, when, and which machines in the network will deliver the 95% return. In this system, the 95% return is not limited to a specific machine. It is shared with as many machines as are connected to the network.


Another social psychological concept casinos capitalize on is the availability heuristic which states: remembered events tend to be perceived as being more frequent. Thus, small bets are not remembered as they gradually add up but a large win is. Because the win is easily recalled, it leads to the belief that another win will soon come. This is a pattern common in compulsive gamblers--most compulsive gamblers experienced a big win early in their gambling history which convinces them that it will happen again. I suspect that most of you have seen the full page ads taken out by casinos showing one of these lucky winners holding a $10,000 check the size of a filing cabinet. These odds are designed to be memorable in hopes that you will begin to believe that they are frequent. When was the last time you saw a full page ad listing of the hundred thousand people's losses that contributed to that check?


Casino owners and gambling proponents have invested a great deal in behavioral research.  They have become experts--what I would refer to as the Jedi masters--at employing these principles of manipulation upon their patrons.


Lights, sounds, smells, action, shows--all are by design. These are the lure, the bait if you will. Inexpensive prime rib and lodging, lights and excitement, live bands which play loud at night to keep you awake and less so with the rising sun, lighting that is not too bright lest it fatigue your eyes, and attractive attendants. In the 1990's, Las Vegas invested hundreds of millions to market a "new image" from "sin city" to one of being a family-friendly resort with casinos, building amusement and theme parks to "baby sit" children while the parents were gambling. The effect is to make it as attractive, convenient, and as exciting as possible.


Slot machines are not randomly dispersed throughout the casino, but instead they are methodically crowded together taking advantage of the findings of psychologist Albert Bandura and vicarious reinforcement. When one machine delivers a jackpot, everyone around the winner gets excited. Now think about that. Why is everyone else excited? What did they win?


As we have already demonstrated, research shows that the longer a person plays the more he/she will lose. As one report revealed: "Casinos do not have to try to pull more money out of you, they only have to help you play longer." This is why there are no windows, clocks or watches and why some have wall and ceiling paintings of daylight scenery to paralyze your perception of time passing and slipping away.


Casino interior designs have been changed based on this research. Casinos create slot machine mazes intentionally crafted so that it requires more time to navigate around and through the building, thereby exposing you to more stimuli in hopes of tempting you to continue your play longer. Neurologist Alan Hirsch researched various aromas until he discovered one most people find appealing. Studies showed that when this aroma was released around slot machines there was a 45% increase of revenue because players continued playing longer. Back supports on slot machine stools, fresh air pumped in every 8 or fewer minutes to keep players alert and reduce drowsiness. Hand pull slot machines are now replaced with push button computer simulators allowing more plays per hour. These same machines now accept both currency and credit cards eliminating the time necessary to create change.


Dealers are instructed to return chips of the lowest denomination because research shows players are more likely to hold on to high denomination chips and spend the low denominations ones because they are more difficult to track. The memory of losing a dollar chip does not remain like the memory of losing a 100 dollar chip.


Colors have been researched. Bright colors draw people in, but softer hues keep people playing longer. So casinos place their brightly colored machines far down a row machines to bring you in and then they place the softer colored ones next to them. This way there is less time spent in what the research calls "transitional periods" where players move to locate another machine.


Some slot machines are intentionally designed to show the symbols just before and after where the reel stops, called the payout line, then computer programs are designed to make multiple symbols come up in pairs more often to make you think you were just one space away from a jackpot when in reality you were no closer than any other spin. Manufacturers create machines where the first two reels have more winning symbols whereas the last wheel has only one. This way it is more likely you will obtain pairs of symbols in the first two reels creating the impression that you were very close to a win. These are what they refer to in the business as "near misses" or "heart stoppers". Using the social psychological concept of availability heuristic, slot machine manufacturers create the winning symbols on their reels to be more distinctive by making them of a different quality, larger size, and flashing. This way you will be more aware of the winning symbols when they appear and therefore more likely to remember them over the less distinctive losing symbols giving you the false impression that winning symbols appear more often and that your chances of winning are better.


With advances in technologies, slot machine producers have added "stop buttons" that deceive the player into thinking they can control where the wheels stop creating the impression that they can increase their chances of winning. What you are not told is that the stop buttons actually "speed to the end of the machine predetermined spin." Pushing the button does nothing to change the outcome.  However, it does shorten the time it takes the machine to finish its cycle, which means you can make more plays in an hour thereby increasing the amount you play ... and lose.


Additional technologies that have been added to casinos are the radio frequency ID cards. These serve like credit cards so that you do not have to waste time exchanging cash. Research revealed that cardholders averaged $101 in losses compared with $31 for those who did not use them. The card is swiped at any game location and then information about what type of games you played, how much you bet and how often you bet is recorded. Information about when you break for a meal is also sent to the computers as well as your meal selection. The information from these cards is then used to give 10 to 30 percent of the player's losses back in complimentary awards ... of course for the specific type of games you play most, the type of meal you most often order, or the type of show you prefer in order to attract you to return and play again and cause you to feel happy in the midst of your losses. Studies also reveal that more money is spent when customers stay at the same location as the casino, so complimentary stays are also awarded.  Of course, alcoholic beverages are free if state laws permit free drinks; if state laws do not permit free alcoholic beverages the glasses are overfilled ... Hmmm ... out of generosity???


3) Social Interaction


Some people report that they gamble for the social interaction.


However, what you are sold on TV is not what I witnessed in person as I have had to walk through these casinos to reach professional conferences held in their convention auditoriums. The fact that we had to walk through the casino to get to their auditoriums, of course, is also by design just as you have to walk through them to gain access to their restaurants and other offerings. On these occasions I saw mostly solitary people at machines or tables. When there was more than one person in close proximity there was very little social interaction as all were intent on the bet. I suspect a lonely person could wander and try to start up conversation with dealers and pit bosses, but as a U.S. News & World Report article revealed, employees refer to these talkative patrons as "fleas" thus revealing the real depth of these supposed relationships. While the façade of nice people is important to present, dealers are under pressure to deal upwards of 75 hands an hour. The article goes on to quote the Vegas World Casino owner, Bob Stupak, as saying, "They better deal as fast as they [expletive] can or they're gonna work someplace else."10


I suppose you might meet someone other than an employee at these locations, but, if you listened to President Clark's recent devotional address last month about likes attracting, it is a pretty "good bet" that the odds of finding your eternal temple worthy husband or wife here are worse than your odds of winning their biggest jackpot.


If you came with a social group, accounts indicate that most groups, with perhaps the exception of couples, when they arrive tend to separate to different locations and games in the casino. This is because personal finances are very private. Have you noticed that when anyone talks to you about gambling it is usually about their winnings? When was the last time you heard someone tell you that they went gambling and lost a thousand dollars? I imagine that your most likely response would be to question the gambler's wisdom. So to protect themselves, most gamblers keep their losses secret.


In actuality, having people watching you play can be detrimental. Studies show that most people tend to make higher risk bets when others are watching than when they are alone.11 If people at the table are making large bets you are more likely to feel pressure to do the same.12 If you win, others perceive you in a positive light whereas if you lose ... well, you lose.


Research on problem gamblers supports this perspective, revealing that they prefer to gamble alone.13


Interestingly, research also indicates that women are more likely to gamble alone and to spend that time with machines as opposed to games of skill.14 Somehow the company of a machine does not seem to me to fit the argument that gambling is for the social interaction.


Of course, with the increase of internet gambling, the argument of gaming for the social reward seems to be even less likely.


4) For Entertainment


Approximately 30-40% of respondents report that the reason they gamble is for the entertainment. Indeed a Los Angeles Times writer, Paul Brownstein, is quoted as saying:

Gambling is fun. A horribly self-destructive activity if it gets out of control, yes. But in the meantime fun. Fun, fun, fun.15

A vocal proponent of gambling, Frank Fahrenkopt, Jr. writes:

While the busybodies of the world continue their fight, we, too, will continue to defend the rights of our customers who enjoy the entertainment options we offer ... it's clear that most people agree that gambling is fun. And that's my final answer.16

Let's look at that argument: First, if entertainment was what these games were about, then the least expensive way to play them would be to make the smallest bets and play the least expensive machines. Since it is all the same game, why would anyone bet big money if it was not about the money? Second, as Michael Walker points out in his paper entitled "The Medicalization of Gambling as an Addiction"  If entertainment, not money, really is a primary motivation for involvement in these games, what would happen if these machines no longer periodically gave money in return? Would these same people really continue to play? Think about these games; take away the money and they are really quite boring. Can you imagine sitting in front of these machines hour after hour to watch some symboled wheels spinning around just to see if they will match up or a marble rolling around a spinning table to see if it will fall on a number you predicted? Frankly, I don't even think my grandson would spend his time watching these games more than once or twice!


Since the longer you play, the less money you will make, and since people do not want to admit to wasting their money this way, it is human nature to find a more logical rationale for losing their money and wasting their time. Entertainment is the most widely employed excuse.17


5)   To Win 


Suppose you walk out to your car after this forum and discover something green blowing underneath your wheel.  You pull it out and discover it to be a $100 bill. Suppose you are also heading toward Fort Hall to spend some time with a friend. Suppose further that you are not a member of the Church and know nothing about gambling except that you have always thought the roulette table looked fun in the western movies. So you decide to give it a try. Okay, now do you place your entire $100 dollar bill on one number to win or do you make 100 single dollar bill bets?


By raise of hands, how many of you would place the full $100 on one number to win?


How many would make 100 single dollar bets?


What does the house want you to do? They want you to make the 100 single bets.


Why? - Because the casino wants you to win. They are desperate for you to win. They want you to win so bad that their teeth ache. The win is the hook. Remember, they are in this for the long haul. It is through the continued play that they get your money.


Let's look at the odds of your bets. Roulette wheels have 38 numbered positions into which the marble may fall. If you bet $100 on one number your odds are 1:38. If you win, the house will pay you $3600! It is here, in the payout, that the house is skimming money from you and guaranteeing that they will always come out ahead. You take a 1:38 risk and the house only pays you back at a rate of 1:36. Instead paying you 38 dollars for your risk they only pay you 36. Now if you lose you are going to experience an awakening. Just moments ago you had $100. You watched a silly little marble roll around a table, drop down into a groove and now you are $100 poorer than you were moments ago. After that why would anyone gamble again? The house does not want you to have that experience.


Now let's look at the bet most of the rest of you made. When you make your 100 single dollar bets the casino can pretty much guarantee that you will win at least 2 times. Since your odds of guessing right are one in 38, close to every 38 bets you will guess right once. Since 38 goes into 100 twice it is probable that you will have at least two wins. That will be exciting because they will pay you $36 for your $1 bet! After you have placed your 100 single dollar bets you will now have $72. Isn't that exciting???


Now let's look at your odds. What has to happen in order for you to win the same $3600 you made by placing your $100 bill on one chance to win? To end up with the same amount of money from single dollar bets you have to select the correct number for that marble 100 times in a row! Do you have any idea what those odds are? I will show you: 1:151,091,036,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000, 000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000


Now that is what I call a bail out!  Is it any wonder they want you to play more?


6)   Rush/Excitement


Some people claim that they gamble for the "rush" or excitement. There is this element: if I were about to lose $100+ dollars because a marble looked like it was going to stop in any of 37 different places I did not choose ... I might feel a little emotion.


7)   Addiction


Last, let's look at addiction.


Various studies indicate that approximately 3-5% of the population are problem or compulsive gamblers; with higher percentages among adolescent and college populations (8%). Although this may not look like very much these numbers are similar to the prevalence of cancer and 5 times the rate of schizophrenia. (NCALG)18


Casinos employ what psychologists refer to as a variable ratio schedule of reinforcement in their slot machines and other games of chance. A variable ratio means that the ratio of plays to wins constantly changes. This is the most addictive schedule of reinforcement known in the field of psychology.  It is selected by design. Using this type of reinforcement schedule, psychologists have been able to get rats to press a bar to exhaustion.  If you think about it, how many of you would play a dollar slot machine that took your money nine times and then on the tenth play  gave you back 9 dollars?  Who would play those games?  But change the system to a variable ration schedule of reinforcement and everyone will play them.


Of course the resulting debt means fewer family expenditures, bills that are overdue, utilities shut off, repossession, eviction, possible foreclosure, spouses harassed by bill collectors, insomnia, depression, lost employment, embezzlement, fraud, theft, felony, divorce, and lost families. 


Studies indicate that of pathological gamblers, 18-28% of males and 8% of females declare bankruptcy, 57% report having stolen from others, 30-40% have embezzled from their employer, 63% have written bad checks, 23% had affairs, 35% divorced, and 13-18% have attempted suicide. 19


Having discussed the logic behind gambling let's spend the reminder of our time looking at what prophets and apostles have said on this subject.  Since the word "gambling" does not explicitly show up in the Ten Commandments or for that matter in any of the standard works, perhaps many people, Mormons included, have assumed, or rationalized that it was "fair game."  Numerous presidents of the Church have spoken out against gambling. 


President Heber J. Grant and his counselors in the First Presidency issued the following statement to the Church on this subject back in 1926:

"The Church has been and now is unalterably opposed to gambling in any form whatever," "It is opposed to any game of chance, occupation, or so-called business, which takes money from the person who may be possessed of it without giving value received in return. It is opposed to all practices the tendency of which is to encourage the spirit of reckless speculation, and particularly to that which tends to degrade or weaken the high moral standard which members of the Church, and our community at large, have always maintained." 20

From our discussion today it should be clear that ultimately gambling is about getting money. Regardless of the other reasons people give, if they are honest, money is the common denominator.  Gambling is the manifestation of a selfish spirit.  Gamblers seek what they have not earned. ." 21 It is in complete opposition to the principles and doctrine of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  President Joseph F. Smith stated that: "The desire to get something of value for little or nothing is pernicious". 22 President Stephen L Richards underscores the same sentiment explaining that it "proceeds upon the assumption that one has to lose for another to gain." 23


Said President Spencer W. Kimball: "We call upon all the ....... members of this church to be honest, full of integrity, pay for what they get and take only that which they have properly paid for. We must teach our children honor and integrity." 24


The concepts and principles that are subtly sold through gambling are fatally destructive and always undermine the character and purposes of true disciples of the Savior Jesus Christ. 


Elder Dallin H. Oaks, a champion in the war against gambling has frequently spoken out against the temporal and spiritual destruction that follows those who fall victim to the false promises of this activity.  He teaches "Whenever we as Latter-day Saints engage in any kind of conduct that is inconsistent with the companionship of the Spirit of the Lord, we pay an enormous price." He adds that it :  "......is (an) extraordinary waste of time..." and that " Those who while away their hours gambling frequently do so to the neglect of family and work." 25


Elder John A. Widtsoe of the Council of the Twelve (1872-1952) gave vivid expression to this thought:

"They who gamble, who walk with chance, suffer degeneration of character; they become spiritually flabby; they end as enemies of a wholesome society. A gambling den, however beautifully housed, is the ugliest place on earth.....  After an afternoon or evening at card-playing, nothing has been changed, no new knowledge, thoughts, or visions have come, no new hopes or aspirations have been generated, except for another opportunity to waste precious hours. It leads nowhere; it is a dead-end road. ... Dull and deadly is a life which does not seek to immerse itself in the rapidly moving stream of new and increasing knowledge and power. Time is required to ‘keep up with the times.' We dare not waste time on pastimes that starve the soul."   26

President Spencer W. Kimball indicated that : "Even a small payoff is counter to the spirit of the work ethic. The size of the prize is irrelevant-even if the gambler breaks even. "The deterioration and damage comes to the person, whether he wins or loses, to get something for nothing, something without effort, something without paying the full price," 27


Quoting an editorial in USA Today, President Gordon B. Hinckley said: ‘...the overwhelming majority of players always lose. The game takes bread and money from the poor. And it is one more temptation for the compulsive gamblers who ruin careers and families with their addiction. " 28


More Recently in his 2005 address on gambling President Hinckley plead: "Please, please do not fritter away your time or your talents in an aimless pursuit. If you do so, it will lessen your capacity to do worthwhile things.  I believe it will dull your sensitivity to your studies in school. It will disappoint your parents, and as the years pass and you look back, you will be disappointed with yourself." 29


In an attempt to counter these moral issues many argue that the money from gambling is used to support charities and good causes such as the use of gambling tax revenues to build bridges, repair roads, provide jobs, and build infrastructure.  Somehow I cannot seem to bring myself to belief that people who go to casinos are thinking "I am making this bet so that I can improve the streets or support the local food bank."  The reality is that very little of gambling revenue actually goes to either state taxes, charities or even to pay employees.  The majority of winnings go to the owners of the casinos.  It would seem to me that if one really wanted to donate to a charity you would want your entire contribution to go to the cause, not just 5 to 20 percent of it.  Just imagine as President Kimball stated:  "What would $30 billion a year do to help the starving people?"  30


President Joseph F. Smith and his counselors in a statement of the First Presidency to the Church stated:

Let it not be thought that raffling articles of value, offering prizes to the winners in guessing-contests, the use of machines of chance, or any other device of the kind is to be allowed or excused because the money so obtained is to be used for a good purpose. The Church is not to be supported in any degree by means obtained through gambling.


Whatever may be the condition elsewhere, this custom is not to be sanctioned within this Church; and any organization allowing such is in opposition to the counsel and instruction of the general authorities of the Church.31

President Young once said to Sister Eliza R. Snow: "Tell the sisters not to raffle. If the mothers raffle, the children will gamble. Raffling is gambling." Then he added: "Some say 'What shall we do? We have quilts on hand,-we cannot sell them, and we need means to supply our treasury, which we can obtain by raffling, for the benefit of the poor.' His response: "Rather let the quilts rot on the shelves than adopt the old adage, 'The end will sanctify the means.' As Latter-day Saints, we cannot afford to sacrifice moral principle to financial gain." 32


Brothers and Sisters, let's say that you were one of those lucky 1:35 million.  When you leave the casino, whose money is in your pockets?  We have clearly learned that it is not the casino's.  They never lose.  That money in your pocket is the money from the guy who just lost his paycheck and now has to go home and tell his wife that they do not have any money to purchase food for his family or pay their months bills.  It is the money from the person who, because he has lost his paycheck has maxed out his credit cards.  It is the money from the person who because he has lost his paycheck and maxed out his credit cards that he now defrauds his employer or writes bad checks.  It is the money from the person who, because he has broken the law and is now under investigation, his wife and children leave him.  It is the money from the person who because he has lost his employment, wife and family and is about to go to jail he goes home and takes his own life.  That is whose money is in your pocket.  Is there any wonder then, why the Church does not accept tithing on this money?   What good can you do with that kind of money?


To all of you here today I say:  all forms of gambling are destructive.  It is contrary to the character of the Savior, it is contrary to the covenants of temple worship.


Win or lose it will leave you and your loved ones spiritually bankrupt.  Of this I testify in the name of Jesus Christ Amen.




 Torr, J. K. (Ed.). (2002). Gambling: Opposing viewpoints. (p. 27). San Diego, CA.: Greenhaven Press.
2. Torr, J. K. (Ed.). (2002). Gambling: Opposing viewpoints. (p. 84). San Diego, CA.: Greenhaven Press.
3. U.S. Commercial Casino Industry: Facts at your fingertips. Retrieved April 2009 from https://www.americangaming.org/assets/files/AGA_Facts_Web.pdf
4. Fahrenkopf, F. J. Jr. (2001) The gaming industry: Current legal, regulatory, and social issues. ALI-ABA Conference, Las Vegas, Nevada. Retrieved April 2009 from https://www.americangaming.org/.
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12. Holtgraves, T. M. (1988). Gambling as self-presentation. Journal of Gambling Behavior, 4(2), 78-91.
13. Griffiths, M. (1990). The cognitive psychology of gambling. Journal of Gambling Studies, 6(1), 31-42.
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15. Torr, J. K. (Ed.). (2002). Gambling: Opposing viewpoints. (p. 27). San Diego, CA.: Greenhaven Press.
16. Frank J. Fahrenkopt Jr. "Gambling Opponents Forget One Thing: It's Fun," August 2000. https://www.americangaming.org/ ) pg. 30.
17. Walker, M. (1996) The medicalisation of gambling as an ‘addiction' In McMillen, J. (Ed.) (1996). Gambling cultures: Studies in history and interpretation.  (p. 64) NewYork: Routledge.
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19. Torr, J. K. (Ed.). (2002). Gambling: Opposing viewpoints. (p. 53). San Diego, CA.: Greenhaven Press.
20. Improvement Era, Vol. 29. Sept. 1926, p. 1100
21. Gardner, M. K. "Don't bet on it!': A Latter-day Saint look at gambling." Ensign, Mar. 1986.
22. Editor's Table., Improvement Era, 1908, Vol. Xii. December, 1908. No. 2 .
23. Richards, S. L. (1955).  Where Is Wisdom?  (p. 54) Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co.
24. Kimball, S. W. "Why Call Me Lord, Lord, and Do Not the Things Which I Say?" Ensign, May 1975, p. 6.
25. Ensign, Nov. 1972, p. 47.
26. "Should Latter-day Saints Play Cards?" Improvement Era, vol. 43 (April 1940), p. 225.
27. Ensign, May 1975, p. 6.
28. USA Today, 26 Aug. 1985.  Quoted in: Ensign, Nov. 1985, p. 52.
29. "Gambling" Ensign, May 2005
30. Kimball, S. W. "Why Call Me Lord, Lord, and Do Not the Things Which I Say?" Ensign, May 1975, p. 6.
31. Editor's Table., Improvement Era, 1908, Vol. Xii. December, 1908. No. 2.
32. Juvenile Instructor, Vol 37, 1 Oct.1902, p. 592-3.