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Betting on Shabbos — Don’t Bet On It!

What is the halacha with regards to making a wager on Shabbos? That is, while I’m fairly certain that one should not bet on Shabbos (or maybe any other time since it’s a form of gambling), if one did, can they demand payment from the losing party of the bet if the bet was made on Shabbos?
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As you note, it is forbidden to perform financial transactions on Shabbos, or even to discuss them. However, while forbidden, a financial transaction that is enacted on Shabbos is legally valid.

Yet, this does not mean that payment can be demanded from the losing party. Most forms of bets and gambling are known as asmachta, meaning that when a person agrees to a conditional penalty, or a bet, he does so under the assumption that he won’t have to pay. He only agrees to the conditional payment because he is convinced that he will “win the bet,” and won’t have to pay. Therefore, because the person never really agrees to pay, he is actually exempt from paying.

The laws of asmachta are complex, and not all bets would fall under the categories of exemption, but if the wager does fall under the category (most would), extracting the money from the loser could be considered theft. As you rightly note, it is therefore correct to steer clear of gambling, and making any kind of monetary bets, both on Shabbos and weekdays.

Sources: Concerning business on Shabbos, see Choshen Mishpat 195:11 and commentaries; concerning asmachta, see 207:13 and commentaries (much depends on the dispute between Shulchan Aruch and Rema, and the understanding thereof).

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  1. I dont think you can make a wager on shabbos, because wagering is like mesajek bakubia, and the mishna berura in siman 322 din hanolad be shabbat saif katan 22 says that mesajek bakubia beshabat dame le mekaj u memkar, and this is prohibited from rabanan

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