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I realize there are many variations even among Baptists, but I personally have never heard this area discussed.

How do baptists view the "gambling" associated with games like Jeopardy!? For those unfamiliar with the game show, a variety of trivia clues are hidden on a board with varying dollar amounts in front of them, arranged more-or-less by category. When a contestant has control of the board, they ask for a clue (eg "Potent Potables for $400, Alex"), at which point the host reads the clue and the contestant must answer in the form of a question.

If they get it wrong, they lose the $400. If they respond correctly, they gain the $400. During the game, some squares will allow the player to wager on their response to the as-yet-unshown clue.

Given the popularity of the program, and other similar games like it, what is the Baptist view on this type of "wagering"? Technically it's not gambling, because it's not your money until you end the show (and then only if you're the highest-placing after Final Jeopardy!).

Do other denominations / traditions take different views of this type of "gambling"? If so, how do they differ?

The question could be extended to other forms of "wager" games (eg spades, pinochle, etc), too.

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It's interesting that the concern here seems to be whether or not it is technically gambling, since the Bible doesn't specifically address gambling anyway. In my personal opinion, gambling is wrong for two reasons: it is irresponsible if you lose money, and it is gaining money you don't deserve or earn if you win money. I think the latter reason is actually the more corrupting of the two, and that's the one which also applies in situations like game shows. I'd say all get-rich-quick schemes are sinful because you should never take money you didn't earn. See verses on usury for starters. –  Steven Doggart Sep 6 '13 at 12:30
    
@StevenDoggart - the Bible addresses gambling in many places (though not with that particular word) –  warren Sep 9 '13 at 19:10

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up vote 4 down vote accepted

I know that personal opinion matters don't typically count, but as a Baptist that's had a conversation with other Baptists on this exact subject...

I have yet to run into one that has a problem with Jeopardy or other game shows for the following reasons...

  • It's not gambling because it doesn't rely on luck but rather knowledge and skill. It' more like winning a spelling bee or geography bee. The prize is a reward for your God-Given intelligence, and your hard work in studying.
  • It's also not gambling because you don't have people losing their own money so that the winner can prosper at others' expense. The game show is making money for the network. It's mutually beneficial, not one person greedily profiting at another person's expense
    • This addresses the "If they get it wrong, they lose the $400. If they respond correctly, they gain the $400. During the game, some squares will allow the player to wager on their response to the as-yet-unshown clue." in the questionn.
  • Also, it's not gambling because there's no wager or bet. There's just rewards for right answers. In a "wager" you can lose money that was already yours. In this show, none of your own money is at risk, you can only increase or decrease your winnings. You have no risk of leaving with less than you came in with.

In general, gambling is considered sinful by Baptists because it involves a direct relationship between gain for some party at the harmful expense of another. It's an expression of greed and covetousness.

This article addresses what gambling is and isn't from a Baptist perspective, and the ills associated with it. Game shows at worst can fall into the "money for nothing" category, making it roughly an equivalent sin to playing guitar on the MTV.

Excerpt from the article:

Definitions – What Is Gambling

It would be helpful to develop a working definition of what we mean by "gambling". We should also point out that there are varying kinds of gambling, e.g. the local bingo hall and the hard-core, back room poker game. Some are referred to as “innocent” and others as “criminal”. Here are some definitions:

  • Gambling can be defined as “risking money in an attempt to multiply the money on something that is against the odds.”
  • Webster's Dictionary: "to play games of chance for money or other stake."
  • A Popular definition: “Getting something for nothing”. This can be expanded to, "Getting something for nothing without rendering service or exchange of goods, and is essentially stealing and a form of robbery".
  • It is to “assume irresponsible risk in hope of unearned gain at the expense of less fortunate players.”

I have found this definition particularly helpful:

  • “Gambling is an agreement between two or more people, with the conscious risk of loss and hope of gain, whereby the transfer of something of value is made dependent on an uncertain event in such a way that one party will gain and another lose.”

Using that last, game shows don't fit the bill.

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I guess Wheel of Fortune is out then. Same with Deal or No Deal. –  fredsbend Sep 6 '13 at 4:26
    
@fredsbend - clarified. –  David Stratton Sep 6 '13 at 4:45
    
@fredsbend - Deal or No Deal is math after randomizing .. though you do still gamble that your math is better than the Banker's :) –  warren Sep 6 '13 at 13:33
    
@Warren The math involved in Deal of No Deal is the same kind involved in Poker. You are playing against odds. By most definitions, that is gambling. The only saving grace, per this perspective, would be that you are only wagering what you have already won; you are not risking your own money for the sake of increasing it. –  fredsbend Sep 6 '13 at 16:57
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"Play the gi-tar on the MTV" LOL. "That ain't working. That's the way you do it. Money for nuthin and your chicks for free." –  fredsbend Sep 6 '13 at 17:01

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