Wednesday 4 December 2013

Cristina Odone on fixed odds betting terminals

More anti-gambling nonsense, this time from Cristina Odone in the Telegraph.

A country that spends £46 billion a year on betting terminals is a country of gamblers. Reckless addicts of every class and colour are spending enough money to build a new HS2 every year.

God almighty. How many times do we have to go through this? We don't spend £46 billion a year on FOBTs. That would be about a thousand pounds per adult. Does that sound remotely likely? No.

FOBTs have a high turnover but they return about 97 per cent of what is put in. The amount staked is £46 billion. The amount spent is about 3 per cent of that—£1.5 billion.

Every other industry sags under the weight of regulations — but not gambling: the ordinary punter can bet £100 every 20 seconds, 13 hours a day, no questions asked. No wonder the money spent on the fixed-odds betting machines has doubled in the past four years. 

No it hasn't. The amount spent rose from £1,166 million in 2008/09 to £1,547 million in 2012/13. That's a rise of 33 per cent. These figures are not difficult to find and should be comprehensible to any competent journalist.

And no wonder that gambling has links to organised crime: there's a fortune to be made out of people's compulsive behaviour, as any drug dealer will tell you.

There's a fortune to be made out of any illegal behaviour, as any black market bookie in Shanghai or Utah will tell you. This, apparently, is what Odone wants more of.

We brought it on ourselves. The National Lottery, gambling by another name, made a vice legitimate. Its cosy "fingers crossed" logo, its accessibility (it's all at the click of your mouse) and its much vaunted benefit to the community – yes, some money is invested in worthwhile projects -- have duped the public and politicians into thinking gambling is a virtuous and inclusive investment. (Actually, the price of a ticket has soared, and hard-up punters are complaining.)

The price of a ticket has doubled, from £1 to £2, in the 19 years since the lottery was launched. In that same period, the price of the Daily Telegraph has risen from 48p to £1.20. Just saying.

But gambling is not an innocuous habit. It teaches that hard work counts for nought, while luck is everything. Why study, train or slog, when fate could deal you a winning hand?

It's just a bit of fun. Aside from a few poker players, no gambler thinks they can make a living out of it. We know that the house always wins. It's a leisure activity.

It doesn't matter that the Lotto winners turn out to be miserable: the temptation of making a fortune by doing nothing more than scratching a card is irresistible.

Click on the link. It's in the original article. Just click on it. This is her source for claiming that lottery winners turn out miserable. Unbelievable.

The Commons will vote later today on whether we should restrict the stakes people can gamble on FOBTs. I hope that's the first step of a long journey to rid Britons of their acceptable, destructive vice.

At least you know where you are with Odone—straight-forward religious moralising with a wide streak of authoritarianism. In a way, I prefer her upfront puritanism to the slippery-slope denying charlatans. Nevertheless, she is wrong, wrong, wrong.


Séan Billings said...

Will she also want the stock market banned? Property speculation? Surly these are gambling too. Will the then turn her attention the that other financial sin; usury? Can't have people lending money for profit can we? As any leg-breaking moneylender will tell you, there's a fortune to be made feeding peoples need for money they don't have.

Zaphod said...

I take chances, but i don't ever do "gambling". I hate losing more than I like winning.

But I worked in amusement arcades for many, many years, so I know a bit about the subject.

For most people it is, as you say, a leisure activity. We all choose how to waste some of our money.

For a tragic minority, it's a heavy drug.

To be honest, I'd like to ban everything I don't want to do. But that doesn't work, does it?

No amount of tinkering with the legislation will resolve the issue.

The State should just tax gambling, (not try to forbid or constrain it), and let the market decide. If they tax it too heavily, the black market will step in.

What we SHOULD ban, is careers in politics for people who like to tell others what they can and can't do! Ah, if only...