I was a seasoned gambler by the age of 16. 

It started innocently enough with pinball machines while I was still in primary school. Over the next few years, on my trusty, rusty, back-pedal-brake bike, I trawled every fish and chip shop in the Illawarra that had a solo machine. I plied my trade in every pinball parlour with a bank of the latest Bally electro-mechanicals from Bulli to Berkley. 

So I became a pinball wizard before I hit puberty. It wasn’t gambling. It was skill, just like the form guides and footy tipping competitions we ran from our early days at high school. Such trivial pursuits were the highlight of my week.

They introduced me to the world of risk and the rush of winning and beating the odds in games that combined skill and chance. 

It was a seamless progression from pinball parlours to pubs and pool halls and playing hybrid machines that combined the skill of the pinball (without the flippers) with the luck of the pokies and lining up three, four or five in a row. 

I was only 15 and didn’t know what a razor blade was. But this pimply bumfluff-faced kid was getting razor sharp in the gaming rooms of many a Wollongong pub, and what publican was checking what ID in the summer of ’66?

Then Jesus rescued me in the autumn of 1968. I went cold turkey on chance from the day of my conversion at the ripe old age of 16. 

No more flutters on the fillies. Not even a November sweep. And you may have well asked me to swallow a coin than send one down the chute of those one-armed, money-eating robots that have more lights and bells and whistles than a Sunday Mass.

I was squeaky clean when it came to gambling.

Or so I thought.

The three big issues that needed little debate in the early years of my Christian life were drugs, sex and rock and roll. 

But another trilogy of questions was a little trickier. They generated energetic discussion among the believers of my early Christian years.

•    Should Christians play sport on Sunday?

•    Was responsible drinking oxymoronic?

•    When did share market investing become gambling?

We debated these issues for hours, for years. It was the early 1970’s and we wanted to honour Jesus in every part of our lives. 

•    I concluded that it was okay to play Sunday Sport - as long as it didn’t interfere with church and ministry and especially if I had committed to a team that mostly played on Saturday but had an occasional Sunday game. I strangely found myself in the minority and strongly criticised by many of my Christian peers on this issue.

•    I thought that responsible drinking was not an oxymoron. Once again, I found myself at odds with the majority opinion for holding this view in my sub-culture.

•    I invested in the argument that the stock market was not gambling if you had an abiding concern for the company you were investing in; its moral integrity, its long-term viability as an employment provider and its value to the growth and welfare of the country in which it was active. But short-term speculation for quick financial returns seemed more driven by greed and inconsistent with Christian values of contentment, stewardship and service.

By mid seventies at Bible College, I recall conversations where strong opinions were expressed about the first two of these issues - but not a word about the third.

By late seventies all three issues had all but cancelled out of our conversation. Responsible drinking would get questioned every blue moon, Sunday sport more rarely. But I haven’t heard a robust debate on stock market opportunism for over forty years. 

Did that debate get deleted from our dialogue to our peril?

Is it possible that gambling is not a black and white issue, but more a matter of blue and white? Blue collar gambling is the gambling of the track and the pub, the cards and the club (even in a black tie).

But what do we say about the white-collar variety of gambling? What about the hard core, non-recreational gambling being done, not only from nine to five, but all around the clock? 

What do we say about people who take the high moral ground against blue collar gambling but can’t take their eyes off the Internet at 2am in the morning to see what’s going on in Wall St. 

Or what do we say about people who have exposed themselves, or others on whose behalf they manage their money, to high levels of risk to maximise short-term gains? 

Or even those who have exposed the money they manage on behalf of others to high levels of risk while quarantining their personal wealth from such risk?

Perhaps you and I are not one of those people. Perhaps we have only limited ourselves to low levels of risk with small levels of investment.

I may have only taken low levels of risk, or made only small outlays in high risk speculative investments.

I may have shunned all forms of blue collar gambling but turned a blind eye to the white-collar variety.

But if I sit in judgement on those who have taken higher levels of risk or speculated with larger sums of money, or indeed if I sit in judgement on the blue collar gambling while I play my white collar games, should I not heed the words of Jesus who said, albeit in another context:

    Let him who is without sin, cast the first stone.

Remembering that he also said:

    Go, and leave your life of sin.

I am meeting more and more Christians who aren’t questioning the morality and ethics of gambling as we once did.

I happen to think that it is a black and white issue.

And I also think that it is blue and white.