With the rise in legalized sports betting, gamblers will have wagered the most money in NCAA history by tonight's tournament's finale.
The gambling ads seem to come from all directions, and legalized sports betting opened the floodgates. The industry is booming with more than $52 billion wagered last year alone, according to the data intelligence agency, Morning Consult. Thirty states, D.C., and Puerto Rico have given the okay, providing access to numerous available betting platforms.
As many as 10 million Americans live with a gambling addiction. Paul Batura with Focus on the Family says all the marketing and promotion of gambling leads to increased problems for individuals, families, and society.
"Sports wagering is a bad bet for everyone," Batura said. "But for Christians, it's a particularly nefarious thing. As believers, we're called to serve the poor, but gambling exploits the poor. As Christians we're called to love our neighbors, but what does gambling do? We only win if the other guy loses."
This year's March Madness will generate the most betting in tournament history: 45 million Americans are expected to wager more than $3 billion, according to Axios Sports.
"We're also encouraged to work for our wages and not expect something for nothing, that's the exact opposite of what gambling is," said Batura.
Still, Christians aren't universally against it. Not even 40% think sports betting is morally wrong, according to Lifeway Research. So Christian leaders hope to uncover gambling's ugly truth and teach God-honoring ways to protect your money and family.
"The fact is most people who gamble lose," said Art Ally, founder of Timothy Plan, a pro-life, pro-family approach to mutual funds. "God gives us free will. If you want to do that and throw all your money away, be my guest. But I would suggest going through the biblical stewardship course and find out what God has to say about this issue."
Reports show apps like Sky Bet, one of the industry's most popular, have adopted invasive tracking and profiling techniques to identify problem gamblers. The result? Gamblers dive deeper into the gambling rabbit hole.
Ally says that to break the chains of gambling addiction, we first need to learn the biblical approach to handling money. That can lead to growing wealth in healthy ways. To help, he's giving away a resource and a 9-hour course on his Timothy Plan website.
"It is free, we don't charge anybody for it," Ally said. "It's our gift to the body of Christ. A problem we have is all our training in handling money, no matter what aspect, comes from the world and not the church in general."
Art says the church's approach to stewardship, in general, is giving, which is why he teaches about spending, saving, and investing with integrity – to hopefully transform lives.
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