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February 14, 2013

Question:  Is playing the slot machines a sin?

To answer this question, first we would need a definition of sin. In the Abrahamic religions (Judaism, Christianity, Islam and the Baha’i Faith), sin is usually considered to be the breaking of a divine command. In the religions of South Asia, the karmic equivalent of sin would be the violation of  a moral or ethical code. In the Bahá’í Faith, the teaching of “original sin” is rejected. God has created the human soul in the utmost purity to reflect His divine attributes.  There is no stain of original sin requiring salvation to save the soul from spiritual death. The soul becomes sinful through its actions—by ignoring or turning away from divine guidance. More generally, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, the son of the Prophet-Founder Bahá’u’lláh, his successor and the authorised interpreter of his teachings, defined sin as “attachment of the spirit and soul to this world.”

Playing the slot machines is gambling.  Bahá’ís do not have to wonder about the appropriateness of gambling. In his book of laws, the Kitáb-í-Aqdas (Most Holy Book), Bahá’u’lláh has revealed: “Gambling and the use of opium have been forbidden unto you. Eschew them both, O people, and be not of those who transgress.”

The slot machine has been well-named—“the one eyed bandit.”  It steals money. The problem with the seeming innocuous slot machine is the slippery slope. The temptation is, of course, to spend more money and to play at other tables.  Most gamblers lose their money. “The house always wins.”

Further down the slippery slope, addiction to gambling is a serious disease with dire social consequences. Some addicts suffer bankruptcy. Although it is tragic enough that gambling addicts destroy their own lives, they also cause the ruination of the family or the alienation of  friends and loved ones. A desperate few seek a way out in suicide.

Some experts have estimated that approximately 35 per cent of all gambling revenue in Ontario comes from 340,000 problem gamblers. The fact of the matter is that the casino owners are the really big winners. Compared to them, government revenue from gambling, although significant, is way down the line.
-  Jack McLean

Printed in the The Ottawa Citizen February 14, 2013
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