Gambling: Amoral or Amusing?
By Father Kenneth Wasilewski
A final moral issue connected to the Seventh Commandment is gambling. The Catechism of the Catholic Church uses the terms “games of chance” and “wagers” to refer to any number of activities that might be considered gambling. While many forms of entertainment might involve instances of gambling (even common card and board games), the catechism is really considering those which involve actual monetary risk to the participants. 
Gambling would also be differentiated from other things, like making financial investments, which typically entail monetary risk, but which are not entered into primary for entertainment purposes. Gambling, as the catechism envisions it, really involves the risk itself (especially monetary risk) as an essential part of the entertainment. 
Like some other moral issues, gambling is not wrong in and of itself necessarily. Rather, the moral analysis is concerned with how it is done or the effects it has on the people involved. As with other forms of entertainment, the same basic “activity” can either be morally acceptable or not based on what it actually involves and how it is approached. 
Take, for example, watching a movie or TV. There is nothing intrinsically wrong with these activities. However, their content, the amount of time one spends watching them, or the negative effects on the persons involved, can sometimes turn these into morally illicit forms of recreation. Watching a movie without objectionable content presents no real moral issues. However, watching a movie that does have objectionable content (like pornography) is morally problematic. 
Gambling as a form of entertainment presents a similar moral scenario. There are times when it can become a violation of the Seventh Commandment. For example, if it results in the loss of money or goods that would otherwise help support that person’s needs or their family we can see the obvious moral problem it presents. 
Likewise, if it involves inordinate amounts of money — relative to the income of a person — it can easily become an unreasonable or irresponsible risk, even if the money itself is not lost. 
Taking an unreasonable risk that could have a serious effect on oneself or others is itself morally wrong — even if the risk never materializes. In a sense, people can end up “robbing” themselves or their families from having their needs met if they gamble irresponsibly. Even if the amounts of money involved are relatively minor, it can still end up being a moral problem. 
For example, if it were to become an addiction — regardless of the monetary expenditure — it still ends up being a source of harm to the person, impacting not only their freedom but also their ability to fulfill other responsibilities. On a similar note, it can also be problematic if it ends up seriously limiting a person’s ability to be charitable to others who are in need. 
Of course, the opposite can at times be true, and there are notable examples of people who have ended up being extremely generous to charities because of their success at gambling. But one must also approach such motivations with realism and caution. Intending to be generous with one’s winnings is wonderful, but using that as a motivation or justification for some forms of gambling can be a slippery slope and a precarious way to approach the issue in the first place. 
With all of this said, is there still a way that gambling can be a legitimate form of entertainment? Of course. There are any number of ways in which it can be carried out responsibly so long as a few basic principles are kept in mind, like limiting the amount that one risks or spends, being responsible with the resources that one has at their disposal, and being charitable with any winnings. 
As is often the case with the Church’s moral teaching, if moderation, responsibility, and prudence are practiced, many forms of entertainment, like gambling, can be enjoyed without being moral problems.