Whether people should be permitted to gamble online, or gamble at all actually, is an issue that many people are passionate about, on both sides of the fence. In spite of gambling becoming much more accepted in the 21st Century than in the past, there still are a lot of people that are against it, to the extent that lawmakers continue to face huge challenges in looking to update the laws and better regulate it.
We do take a pretty permissive attitude toward how people spend their money, generally, although there are certain activities that have been historically been deemed to be vices, and significant enough vices to invoke the power of criminal law to look to punish such activities.
The use of criminal law should never be taken lightly, and as it generally applies to protecting people from serious infringements by others, to the extent of causing clear and significant material damages, either to one’s person or one’s property, criminal law can involve any sort of acts that lawmakers deem fit to legislate against, and this often spills over into matters that would otherwise be considered matters of personal liberty.
This can come down to the government deciding how one may spend one’s money, and where criminalized vices are concerned, you will be punished for spending your money on such things, whether this be things like recreational drugs, sex for money, or gambling.
The vice of prostitution in itself sheds some light on what may be behind a lot of this reticence, it’s actually rather odd that this would ever be seen as a crime, provided it involves a mutually beneficial contract between consenting adults, but given that this sort of contract meets with disfavor with many people, that is sufficient to look to ban and prosecute it.
We tend to not think pretty deeply about some of these issues, and much remains for the most part unexamined, and when people stop and think about the reasons why gambling and online gambling in particular may be wrong enough to prohibit, or at least try to, since online gambling prohibition is of very limited influence, we often will look to come up with a number of arguments, but this often comes down to mere disapproval.
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What Makes Gambling So Different Than Other Discretionary Spending?
Of course there are lots of things that others do that we may not approve of but we tolerate, so what makes something like gambling different? Well it does have roots in religious beliefs, the idea that gambling is a sin, and even in countries which do at least purport to not allow religious beliefs color the law still see it rear its ugly head in some situations, and this is one of them.
Some countries do not have such a separation of course, and religion may shape their laws quite substantially, and many acts considered to be sins are outlawed, in some Muslim countries in particular. It is hard to imagine legalized gambling ever coming to some of these countries, at least in our lifetimes anyway.
The truth is, many people still find gambling to be distasteful personally, and many also believe that gambling is a sin according to their religious beliefs, and also believe that it is the place of the law to prohibit certain sinful behavior, so this still plays a role to a certain extent, and in some places more than others.
Neither of these reasons should be the least bit persuasive though, and while still fairly popular, several at least seemingly more practical issues have become more prominent in recent years, including one that has been around for a long time, the idea of using paternalism to regulate people’s behavior.
So either gambling isn’t seen as good for you, or isn’t good for a certain percentage of gamblers, and therefore there is harm done by allowing people to gamble, and the government should be out to reduce harm.
This argument doesn’t account for the benefit side of this though, the entertainment and pleasure that gambling provides, and it also looks to take a broader approach to the problem than would be sensible, seeking to prevent anyone from doing this given a few become harmed, or rather, harming themselves.
We Need to Take A Balanced Approach Here
The issues of problem gambling or problem drinking or what have you require that we balance the need of these people without unduly interfering with the rights of others to live their lives and spend their money as they see fit, so to the extent that harm is even an appropriate consideration here, it isn’t in the overwhelming majority of gambling, as no harm is visited upon anyone.
Those who don’t enjoy the practice and don’t partake in it can easily and conveniently ignore the benefit side of things and this is why when the majority of the population doesn’t gamble, the idea of prohibiting or restricting it can become popular enough.
With online gambling, the idea that people can partake in it at their leisure tends to scare these folks even more, but the truth is that there’s really nothing we can do to stop this, people who want to gamble online will do so to their heart’s content regardless of what the laws are, due to the very nature of online gambling being a solely private experience.
There are also fears raised that being more permissive toward gambling will allow criminal elements to be benefited, although ironically, it’s the other way around, if you make it a crime then it is then that criminal elements may step in, at least when it comes to land based gambling.
Even when it is legal, such as in Las Vegas in earlier times, if it’s not regulated properly than you can indeed have organized crime participating, as was the case then. This is not an argument for prohibition, it’s one for policing it better.
Online gambling takes this right out of the picture though, there’s no need for criminals to become involved here on the operational side anyway, although with online gambling the worry is that they will use this to launder money. This just means we need to be diligent towards this, as we already are, and isn’t a reason sufficient to prohibit anyone from playing, and once again, not that we really can anyway.
So there are a number of reasons put forth against online gambling, that it is a sin, that it is simply wrong without needing to provide reasons because as long as enough of us agree we don’t need any, that some people harm themselves with it so no one should be allowed to do it, and that criminals will be benefited so we need to just try to shut it down.
None of these reasons are sufficient though, although the will of those in power is what ultimately prevails, whether that be a matter of popularity in a democracy or the will of the leadership in more autocratic forms of government. Fortunately though we’ve made a lot of progress in getting folks to open their minds more and examine the facts here more closely and this hopefully will continue to progress.