A May 2018 Supreme Court ruling paved the way for legal sports betting across the United States. Once restricted to Nevada, this form of gambling is now offered in 10 states and will soon be available in seven more, according to ESPN.
Churches and other religiously affiliated groups are among those fighting the spread of sports betting. Many faith leaders worry that increasing access to gambling harms vulnerable communities, encourages greed and violates religious teachings.
However, these concerns often fall on deaf ears, whether they’re shared with state lawmakers or congregants. While 59% of Protestant pastors believe it is morally wrong to bet on sports, according to LifeWay Research, only 31% of U.S. adults feel the same way.
The start of the NFL season offers a chance to write about ongoing debates over the morality of sports betting. This edition of ReligionLink will help you take advantage of it.
- Read “United States of sports betting” from ESPN, which explains betting laws nationwide and was most recently updated on Aug. 1, 2019.
- Read “Most pastors see sports gambling as immoral, oppose its legalization” from LifeWay Research on March 19, 2019.
- Read “Acceptance of gambling reaches new heights” from Gallup on June 7, 2018.
- Read “Is sports gambling moral? You bet, Americans say” from LifeWay Research on Jan. 22, 2016.
- Read “Regional divide opens up in sports betting legislation” from The Associated Press on June 23, 2019.
- Read “One NFL franchise and the realities of betting in the Bible Belt” from Sports Illustrated on May 22, 2019.
- Read “Are fantasy sports gambling? NC bill divides lawmakers and religious advocates” from The News & Observer on May 22, 2019.
- Read “Opponents to expanded gambling in Connecticut realistic about ‘uphill battle’” from the Hartford Courant on April 5, 2019.
- Read “Inside how sports betting went mainstream” from ESPN on Aug. 9, 2018.
- Read “What the Supreme Court’s sports gambling decision means” from The Washington Post on May 14, 2018.
- Read “Supreme Court ruling favors sports betting” from The New York Times on May 14, 2018.
- Read “Supreme Court ruling clears way for sports betting in Minnesota, but opposition mobilizing” from the Star Tribune on May 14, 2018.
- Read “The secret Jewish history of sports gambling” from The Forward on May 14, 2018.
- Read “Religion and gambling: Studies find the wages of faith may be fewer lost wages” from HuffPost on June 19, 2017.
- Read “The Catholic casino conundrum” from Crux on Sept. 4, 2014.
Grace Barnes is a senior research scientist emeritus at the University at Buffalo in Buffalo, New York. She studies alcohol use, gambling behaviors and family issues.
Kraig Beyerlein directs the Center for the Study of Religion and Society at the University of Notre Dame, where he’s also an associate professor of sociology. He studies civic engagement and social networks, and he’s written about how religious belief deters problem gambling.
John Dombrink is a professor of criminology, law and society at the University of California, Irvine. He studies morality and the law, and he’s written on gambling, abortion, medically assisted suicide and stem cell research.
Gabriel Feldman directs the sports law program at Tulane University, where he is also an associate professor of law. He is an expert on sports betting policies and serves as an on-air legal analyst for NFL Network.
William Galston is a senior fellow in governance studies at Brookings. He has written widely on public policy, democracy and religion.
John Hoffmann is a professor of sociology at Brigham Young University. He specializes in problem behaviors and the sociology of religion.
Anne Krisnik is the executive director of the Joint Religious Legislative Coalition, an interfaith organization in Minnesota that works to influence public policies, including gambling laws.
Scott McConnell is the executive director of LifeWay Research, which conducts surveys on issues affecting American religious life and Protestant pastors. Arrange an interview through Aaron Earls.
Russell Moore is director of the Public Theology Project at Christianity Today.
Erik C. Owens is an associate professor of the practice in theology at Boston College, where he also directs the international studies program. He is the co-editor of three books, including Religion and the Death Penalty: A Call for Reckoning and Gambling: Mapping the American Moral Landscape.
Jason Powell is a Democratic member of the Tennessee House of Representatives. When the state worked on legislation legalizing sports betting, he proposed an amendment to ban it on Sundays for religious reasons.
Jennifer Roberts is the associate director of the International Center for Gaming Regulation at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.
John Rustin is president and executive director of the North Carolina Family Policy Council, based in Raleigh. The council focuses on a variety of faith-related issues, including conversion therapy and gambling.
The Rev. Kent Siladi is a conference minister for the Connecticut Conference of the United Church of Christ. Along with fellow church members, he lobbied against expanding gambling access in Connecticut.
Mark Tooley is president of the Institute on Religion & Democracy, a faith-based organization that tracks how Christian denominations respond to issues such as religious liberty, LGBT rights and immigration and often advocates for a more conservative approach.
Lisa Vig serves as a gambling addiction counselor for Lutheran Social Services of North Dakota.
Rabbi Shmuly Yanklowitz is the president of Valley Beit Midrash in Phoenix. In 2016, he joined with an interfaith group of Arizona leaders to support a ballot initiative seeking to legalize recreational marijuana in the state. He has written about Jewish teachings on gambling.
- Episcopal Church: A theology of casino gambling
- Islam: Prohibition of all types of gambling
- Judaism: Are Jews allowed to gamble?
- The Lutheran Church — Missouri Synod: Gambling
- The United Methodist Church: Position on gambling
- The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints: Gambling
- Presbyterian Church (USA): Gambling
- Quaker: Gambling and speculation
- Roman Catholic Church: Respect for persons and their goods
- Southern Baptist Convention: On the sin of gambling