SUMMER VACATION SERIES
Edited by Aryeh Werth
Is it proper to go to a casino and play the slot machines or card games?
There are various reasons why gambling is prohibited and sometimes renders one invalid to be a witness in court. It is possibly considered stealing when one claims his winnings as no valid act of acquisition was made as each party only enters this competition thinking they will win. However, in the case of a legal casino – the law of the land renders the winnings legal and binding. Another consideration is that someone who relies totally on gambling as his means of earning a living is not contributing to the development of the world and this renders him unfit to be a witness.
Although, both these reasons do not apply to going to a casino for entertainment other considerations make this endeavor very questionable: (1) The gambling itself is addictive and therefore even if one does so only occasionally the action itself is negative. (2) The atmosphere and environment in such an establishment represents senseless levity and often promiscuity that are at odds with a Torah lifestyle. (3) Even if there is nothing halachically prohibited one is mandated to use one’s time in this world in a manner that is uplifting spiritually, physically and materially and gambling away one’s precious time is in itself an activity that is at odds with a Torah lifestyle.
Bottom line: unless there are factors that mandate this activity, under unusual circumstances it is better to avoid it and find something more appropriate and rewarding with which to spend one’s leisure time.
– Rabbi Zev Leff, rav of Moshav Matisyahu, popular lecturer and educator
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One can argue that there’s nothing wrong with a little bit of playing cards or using slot machines once in a while. I would tend to agree, a person needs to unwind and spend some time doing things that he finds to be enjoyable and relaxing. It’s true that people have fallen into addiction from small exposures to gambling but it seems that this is not a concern for most of us.
Despite the need for a person to unwind and to get away occasionally, a person should give thought to which environments he puts himself into. Many places are not fit for an erliche Yid, each according to his level. As a general rule, if one would be embarrassed to be found there by his Rebbe or Rov, is a good indicator that that place is not for him.
Before a person decides on a vacation destination, he should consider whether the place is consistent with life as a frum erliche Yid. Many people, specifically young ones in, have fallen and not been able to recover spiritually from being in the wrong place with the wrong people. In particular the summertime presents many challenges for the Torah Jew, and one must think twice before going to certain venues.
– Rabbi Yehoshua Heber is Rav of Khal Tomchai Torah at Yeshiva Torah Vodaath and Dayan at Bdatz Mishptai Yisrael.
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The very first verse in Tehillim provides the answer to this question. The Psalmist declares that happy is the person who does not sit in the company of idlers – moshav leitsim. I think moshav leitsim is an apt term to apply to casinos.
Halachic tradition views gambling in very negative terms. At worst, gambling involves financial dealings of dubious propriety deeming an inveterate gambler as someone with tarnished reputation. At best, gambling entails becoming part of a moshav leitsim, a group of people engaged in frivolous activity.
People go to casinos (or gamble online) not merely to pass a few hours of entertainment…but to win money. Although everyone knows that the odds are stacked in favor of the house, people think they will be lucky to win at card games or slot machines. The casinos offer many incentives to get people to gamble – and the casinos rake in many millions of dollars from gullible players.
Many patrons of casinos lose substantial amounts of money. Some have become “addicted” and keep betting their assets away in the hope that this time they’ll hit it big. But very few come out ahead and very many suffer serious losses.
It is best not to get started with gambling. If one already is a frequenter of casinos (or plays online gambling games) it would be best to stop.
Happy is the person who does not sit in the company of idlers, time wasters, gamblers.
– Rabbi Marc D. Angel, director of the Institute for Jewish Ideas and Ideals