Letters to the Editor: Are raffle, gambling same?

It seems that a number of persons,
including at least one popular talk show host, maintain that a raffle held by a
church or service organisation to raise funds for some good cause is the same
as gambling and therefore these organisations are being hypocritical in
objecting to gambling, seeing as they engage in the activity themselves.

Well if you accept the contention
that a raffle is identical to a gamble, this would seem to be a valid point.
But is this really the case?

As an initial thought it would seem
to me that there is a fundamental difference between a person buying a raffle
ticket in knowledge that the funds raised will benefit others in some way and
an individual placing a bet in the hope of some personal gain. Are we to
believe that on the whole people who participate in a raffle to raise funds to
improve a church’s youth programme facilities, or a service club’s outreach to
the elderly, are solely prompted by the prospect of winning a prize? That there
is no element of a willing contribution to a worthy cause involved?

The key to any meaningful
comparison between raffling and gambling would seem, to me at least, to centre
on two aspects: motivation and outcome.

As alluded to previously, what is
the primary reason for buying a raffle ticket? Is it first and foremost to win
the prize; or rather is it to contribute to an objective the purchaser feels is
wholesome and of benefit to others? Compare this to the primary motivation of
the gambler. Yes, his bet does indeed provide for the gainful employment of
those who service the gambling industry, but is this the main reason for his
deciding to place the bet?

And what of the differences between
the outcome of the raffle compared to that of the outcome of a gamble. Are they
really the same? Because if buying a raffle ticket is indeed identical to
gambling, surely they would have to be. But consider does the person who has
purchased a raffle ticket feel the same sense of loss as a person who has
placed a losing bet? The raffle ticket-purchaser who has not won is not a loser
in the same sense as an unsuccessful gambler is; far from it. Rather they have
a sense of achievement in the knowledge that they have participated in the
attainment of a worthy cause. They are winners either way. But can the same be
said for a gambler? Surely not. Theirs is one of a loss, plain and simple, for
in the world of gambling, others must lose so that some can win.

I hope the above has at least given
those who believe that buying a raffle ticket is the same as gambling pause for
further thinking on the matter. Both raffles and gambling involve payment and
an outcome based on chance, it is true, but to limit the basis of any
comparison between them on these two aspects alone seem to me to be rather
superficial thinking.

John Flatley