CHRISTIAN COMMENT To bet or not to bet

Friday last week – off to the races.

Sandown Park for the Royal Artillery Gold Cup – with the Duchess of Cornwall in attendance. Not that I met her. Conditions – crisp, vaguely sunny, no wind, going generally good, even firm in places.

Racing isn’t my thing. I like horses but horse-racing …. I’m neutral. If we hadn’t been invited, I can’t imagine I’d have ever gone.

So, how was it? Very impressive. We had a grandstand seat, behind glass at a table immediately above the winning post. We met interesting people (including Michael Morpurgo the writer) and had a close encounter with the giant horse puppet that features in the London production of ‘Warhorse’. Everyone did their best to explain the mysteries of form and betting, but I can’t say that I’m a convert.

Here’s a tip though – as far as money is concerned, only risk what you can afford to lose.

Betting is simply part of the culture. Highly automated and simple, it forms a very easy route to regret, I suspect, and – for some – a real addiction. That’s a clear ‘lose’.

It’s all very well to say ‘only risk what you can afford to lose’ but when you’re in the midst of a group of people all engaged in speculation, with the dynamics of the actual race right in front of you and the challenge of your own ability to predict the outcome – it’s very easy to get caught up.

Did I bet? Yes. Did I plunge in blindly? Not at all. Could I sense the thrill of chance? Certainly.

I’ve always considered betting rather dangerous and, never having had much money, I’ve never liked to lose any unnecessarily. But there’s the other possibility, of course, that – with a bit of luck and judgement – life could go sunny side up. So - maybe win, maybe lose.

What does the Bible say?

Nothing, as far as I know, about betting. At least no direct comment.

There are one or two statements about people who trust in horses rather than in God. And there are      

reminders about using your money wisely and being trustworthy over small amounts. We are also encouraged to give to the poor, to those who have less than we do and to those who have no means of support.

And that’s the tricky part for me. If I have a few pounds to bet with, that must be money that I can afford to lose, that I could easily give away.

I don’t have to look far to find someone in need, someone for whom a fiver or tenner would make a big difference.

So the choice is ‘Do I have a few minutes of extra thrill at the races?’ or ‘Do I make someone else’s life a bit better for (probably) a somewhat longer time?’

Of course, if I go ahead and bet and then give at least the same amount to charity, that’s win-win, I think.

By Nigel O’Dwyer, who lives and works in Worthing.