The Methodist Church seeks to make its voice heard on issues of
social concern and justice.
What is the history of Methodist concerns about
The Methodist Church has a long-established concern about
gambling, particularly when it is seen as a way of gaining money at
others' expense, and for the victims of gambling.
John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, described gambling as a
means of gain inconsistent with love of neighbour. He explicitly
condemned gamblers who "made a trade of seizing on young and
inexperienced men, and tricking them out of all their money".
However, Wesley was not opposed to all forms of gambling,
particularly 'softer' forms. For example, speaking of lotteries he
said "I never bought a lottery ticket myself, but I blame not those
In the nineteenth century, Methodists ranked gambling alongside
alcohol as a threat to the moral, financial and spiritual
well-being of the poor. At a time when many people lived on the
margins of poverty, an ill-advised or unlucky gamble could mean the
difference for a family between food and starvation, survival and
the workhouse. Gambling was thus an important moral issue for
nineteenth century Methodists.
The 1936 Declaration on Gambling of the Methodist Conference (the
decision-making body of the Methodist Church) argued that "belief
in luck cannot be reconciled with faith in God". Furthermore
gambling undermined the "binding ties of human fellowship".
Gambling was seen as the desire for gain at another's loss, in
opposition to the Christian life of self-sacrifice.
What is the Methodist Church's current position on
Through the twentieth and twenty-first century, the Church's
view on gambling has developed.
Although many Methodists still don't gamble, the Church doesn't
take a prohibitionist approach. Instead we look to ensure that
gambling doesn't harm children and vulnerable people.
Gambling is still therefore a moral issue. Changes in society
mean that it is seen more as a leisure activity, but it is
important to distinguish between hard and soft, and to focus on the
kind of gambling that does damage.
'Soft' forms of gambling include activities such as raffle
tickets and even the National Lottery weekly draw. 'Harder' forms
of gambling typically include activities where there is the
opportunity for high stakes and prizes, rapid re-staking and
These harder forms of gambling include casino table games,
gaming machines and gambling in betting shops, and are much more
addictive and harmful. The must also remain alert to signs of the
progressive 'normalisation' of gambling. This means ensuring that
even forms of gambling that are common and may be classed as
low-risk (eg the National Lottery) do not become gateways to harder
and more dangerous gambling.
Since the liberalisation of gambling that followed the Gambling
Act 2005, the landscape in which gambling operates has changed in
ways that neither the Government not the Churches could have
expected. Online gambling and increased gambling advertising mean
that far more people, and sectors of society that may have had less
access to harder forms of gambling are now potentially at risk of
becoming problem gamblers.
Ultimately, as the Church said in a statement in 1992, it is
important therefore 'to heed the experience of our tradition in our
concerns for the serious evils of gambling; but also to avoid the
heavy-footed pursuit of the trivial'.
Is gambling allowed in Methodist churches?
Methodist churches are now, under Standing Order 924, allowed to
hold small raffles on Methodist premises where the sum expended on
prizes does not exceed £50, none of the prizes may be cash prizes,
and the raffle must not be 'a substantial inducement' for persons
to attend the event. No other forms of gambling are permitted on
Methodist premises or at Methodist events.
What does the Methodist Church do for problem
There are an estimated third of a million problem gamblers in
Britain, for whom gambling compromises their lives, relationships,
ability to hold down a job, and even health. However the true
number of those who are suffering harm due to gambling is higher -
a further million are categorised as being 'at risk' of becoming
problem gamblers The Methodist Church has remained true to its
concerns for the 'serious evils of gambling' by making its premises
open to meetings of Gamblers Anonymous and by providing services to
people who require treatment for addictions.
What is the Church's involvement in changes to gambling
The Church has also been very active in the development of
public policy on gambling, particularly in pressing for measures to
protect children and vulnerable people. Prior to the
2005 Gambling Act it gave written and oral evidence to
Parliamentary select committees and the Joint Committee on the
Draft Gambling Bill, and campaigned alongside other Churches to
highlight concerns around the proposals. . In 2011 the
Methodist Church was again called to give written and oral evidence
to the Culture, Media and Sport select committee about the impact
of the Gambling Act 2005 [upload and link]. It continues to
engage with regulators and other bodies to ensure that debates
around gambling and public policy reflects the concerns of the
Joint Public Issues Team webpages on gambling
Gambling Prevalence Survey
Against the Odds...? - A briefing paper
on the Gambling Act 2005
The Central Finance Board's Gambling Position
Response to Gambling Commission's Consultation on
LCCP Codes, summer 2014
Methodist response to the Culture, Media and Sport
Select Committee consultation on the implementation of the Gambling
Act 2005 + supplementary evidence
A Methodist Statement on Gambling, adopted at the
Methodist Conference of 1992
National Lottery Factsheet
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