Betting on Shabbos Horseraces
A camper asked me a question about betting on shabbos (this question isn’t regarding betting in general because I know it’s not proper anyway). If one bets online before shabbos on a game that will be played on shabbos? is this a problem of sechar shabbos? Sometime the game is also played partially on shabbos but ends on shabbos. Does that change anything? The way this website works is that if your team wins money is put into your bank account and if you lose the money is taken immediately following the sports game.
This is a very interesting question.
It would appear that if the game takes place on Shabbos, it is forbidden to bet in this manner, because this will be considered sechar shabbos, or at least mechzi ke-sechar shabbos. The source for this is the Gemara in Kesubos (64) which demonstrates that even money that is ‘earned’ automatically (adding to the kesubah of somebody who is mored against his wife), without any labor being done, is prohibited on Shabbos.
Based on the Gemara, the Magen Avraham (306:7) rules that it is prohibited to take interest on a loan for the day of Shabbos. Even though no labor is being done, the very receiving of income for Shabbos is prohibitied. This ruling is expounded on by Rav Moshe Feinstein in Iggros Moshe (Orach Chaim 4, no. 59).
Yet, it appears that our case is different from the case of receiving interest, in that the payment is not for the ‘day of Shabbos,’ but rather for the bet that was placed on the race. It is true that the race takes place on Shabbos, but it appears that this is no sufficient cause for prohibition.
A source for this is found in the teshuvos of Noda Biyhuda (Tinyana, Orach Chaim 26), who writes that there is certainly no problem for somebody to receive money for a sale that is performed on Shabbos. The sale itself is usually prohibited, but in cases where it is permitted (see Orach Chaim 323:4 concerning purchases for the purpose of Shabbos, and Orach Chaim 245:5 concerning a non-Jew who sells on behalf of a Jew), there is no prohibition of “making money” on Shabbos.
A similar idea is found in Shut Beis Shlomo (Orach Chaim 36) and in the Tehilla Le-David (244:11).
Based on this principle, authorities have permitted the placement of slot machines (selling drinks or other commodities), even when they will be used on Shabbos (in areas where the use on Shabbos will be by non-Jews; see Shut Maharshag 2:117; Shemiras Shabbos Kehilchasa, in the name of Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, Chap. 29, note 71).
Although in this case the money enters the donain of the Jew (the machine) on Shabbos, there is no prohibition of actually receiving the money on Shabbos (see Mishnah Berurah 325:14, who writes (citing from Eliyah Rabbah) that there can sometimes be a prohibition of maris ayin).
It appears that the case of betting is similar to the case of making money on Shabbos by selling an item, in a manner where no prohibition of mekach u-memkar is involved. Placing the bet on Friday involves no Shabbos prohibition, and there is no prohibition in the specific horse winning the race.
Unlike the case of receiving interest for Shabbos (or the case of the mored in Kesubos), the payment is not made “for the day of Shabbos,” but for the bet (similar to a payment for a sale). Even if the payment is transferred to the account on Shabbos, this involves no prohibition (like the case of the slot machine).
Therefore, it appears that there is no prohibition in placing bets on Shabbos races, provided the bet is placed before Shabbos, and the money is transferred automatically into the account.
[If a specific instruction to transfer the money must be given, see Iggros Moshe, Orach Chaim 3:44, who prohibits (concerning the sale of stocks on Shabbos.)]