Weblog on the Internet and public policy, journalism, virtual community, and more from David Brake, a Canadian academic, consultant and journalist
14 September 2006

According to a new article by The Economist (subscription required to read), “bets in Britain have grown rapidly, from £7 billion in 2000 to £32 billion in 2004 and an estimated £50 billion or more this year.” Internet betting accounts for 15% of this, and half of the bets are placed by foreigners (leaving half to be placed by our own citizens). Regular readers of my blog will know that I am horrified by what amounts to a de facto voluntary tax on the poor and if you are in the UK I encourage you to sign a petition against super-casinos here.


  1. No-one is compelled to gamble. No-one is even subject to the pseudo-compulsion of the TV licence which is often called a tax by those with an axe to grind. And likewise, no-one is compelled to buy lottery tickets. It’s probably true that a disproportionate number of gamblers are poor. It’s also true that a disproportionate number of badly educated and just plain stupid people are poor. I rather suspect that it is their bad education (or innate stupidity) that makes them think gambling instead of paying their bills is such a fantastic idea. I am indeed horrified that so many poor people gamble, but to call it a voluntary tax (a silly notion in itself), and to say it’s targetted at the poor is not, I think, correct.

    And I’m strongly in favour of “super-casinos”. We need a lot of them, not just the one or a handful (they change their mind so often) that the government want to licence. Gambling when you can afford it – and I can – is *fun*, at least for some people, just like climbing cliffs is fun and going to football matches is fun. That some people will gamble recklessly, just like some people reproduce recklessly, or drink recklessly, or drive recklessly, is no reason to prevent me from gambling, screwing, drinking or driving in whatever responsible manner I please. And that means, amongst other things, that I should be able to buy my pleasant hour of blackjack from whoever I please.

    Comment by David Cantrell — 18 September 2006 @ 9:04 pm

  2. You might want to dissect those statistics. Lately poker (which is actually a game of skill, and has been enjoying an enormous rebirth of popularity) has been wrongly lumped into “gambling”.

    Comment by John — 9 October 2006 @ 7:57 am

  3. David
    If you look at the demographicsyou’ll probably find that poor people are more likely to buy lottery tickets, the most widespread and socially acceptable form of gambling. Unfortunately it is also a form of gambling that in which the odds are the most heavily stacked against player. Admittedly that is largely due to the fact that a large portion of the spending on tickets makes its way to good causes, but that doesn’t escape the fact that from a player’s perspective, lotteries are probably one of the worst bets to make. If your objective is to stop taxing the poor, then banning the lottery is the way to go.
    (Full disclosure: I was the author of the piece you cite.)

    Comment by Jonathan Rosenthal — 27 October 2006 @ 4:55 pm

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