Gambling had been around for thousands of years, and had been a part of different cultures all over the world. Broadly defined, gambling is an activity that involves placing at risk anything of value for the prospect of winning a prize at the outcome of a desired event. Many civilizations throughout history have encouraged gambling because of certain benefits that could accrue to the state, just as government’s of many nations have outlawed gambling for its corrupting influence on society. Many arguments have been put forth over the years that are either in favor or against gambling. Which of these arguments are now relevant to our times?
Let us first take a look at the cons. The strongest argument against gambling is its corrupting influence on the person who plays the game of chance. The excitement of winning a wager and the desire to win back a losing bet fuels the gambler’s desire to play the game of chance each time around, eventually making him addicted to gambling. It is not surprising that when times are hard, many people are tempted to gamble for the chance of making a windfall. Understandably, gambling attracts mostly those who can barely afford to lose the money that they place on the betting table. In fact, some studies have shown that many of those who bet on lotteries are the poor. Because of this, they are perpetually mired in debt and poverty, which may drive them to commit crimes against property.
The pros, however, contend that what drives people to the gambling table is precisely the lack of opportunities that spawn economic difficulties. Limited resources that prevent the state from providing adequate services and infrastructure necessarily impinge on the economic well-being of the state and its citizenry. Rather than imposing more taxes among its citizenry, many governments look to gambling as a means of painlessly increasing state revenue. By legalizing and regulating gambling, the state sort of levies taxes only on the willing. Revenues from gambling taxes enable the state to put up vital infrastructure and provide more services for health care, education and law enforcement. In the process, investment capital is attracted to come in, create job opportunities and kick start economic growth.
A state that is sorely lacking in resources from which it can draw the capability to nurture a strong and responsible citizenry has very little choice other than looking at gambling as a powerful engine of economic growth. Apparently, the solution to curbing gambling addiction among the citizenry lies not in outlawing gambling itself, but in encouraging “responsible gambling” among individuals who love to play games of chance.
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