Is Gambling Assur?

Is Gambling Assur?

by Chaya Miriam Fried

Iíve been told that there are quite a few ins and outs regarding the halachos of gambling. Most of them, though, deal with dice games. In Tractate Sanhedrin, dice gamers are called kubiustos and it is said that they are afraid of daylight. I always feel like shit after a night of gambling and donít want to face the daylight, either, but they were probably referring to something more kabalistic when they said that. There are all these references to doing things with your left hand in these discourses. Why is it that everything fun and forbidden has to do with your left hand? I canít say Iíve ever actually seen anyone masturbate in an Indian casino.

You canít gamble against somebody and take their money (lest your opponent be a Jew), but you can participate in a lottery. Donít buy too many tickets, though: if Hashem deemed that you should have that kind of money on Rosh Hashanah, then itíll only take one set of numbers to score the divine jackpot.† There are a number of leniencies available, obviously, or we wouldnít be able to rob our rabbisí children of their hard-won chocolate eight nights of the year. Or more.

Synagogues (and, líhavdil, churches) have an unalienable bond with bingo games. You can drive past any Catholic neighborhood and view the sea of banners advertising spaghetti and bingo nights, but itís the synagogues and yeshivas, though, which are known for having the hottest games in town. Try stepping into one of those yeshiva-sponsored bingo halls that seat 500+ and tell them that what theyíre doing is assur. Theyíve got tens of thousands of dollars and armed guards to tell you that itís not. The bingo-is-assur crowd is small, but it does exist.

Iím thinking that Iíll keep my gambling in the privacy of my own home, thank you. I donít want anyone to see me applying my quarter to a scratch-off ticket with my left hand, and I donít want anyone to hear me scream when I win my millions in the lottery. Iím going to join the ranks of my shady friends that do all of their gambling online. I might be on or on while theyíre flogging some high-stakes poker site, but at least I wonít be seen squinting into the sun as I grudgingly hand over my maíaser. At least there Iíll have a chance to win back everything that Iíve dunked into all those Chinese auctions. My set of cherry wood bookshelves with the complete Shas hasnít arrived yet.