More often than not, gambling is dismissed as just another one of the vices. Tobacco, alcohol, drugs, pornography and... gambling. Something seedy, something to be frowned upon, and – as the policies of successive governments have shown – something to be regulated and, ideally, stopped.
However, new research released by the Institute of Economic Affairs today shows that many of the commonly-held truths about gambling are little more than myths, and that a liberalised gaming sector would bring huge economic benefits to the UK and could prove the saviour for the thousands of struggling pubs up and down the country.
What’s more, it’s a matter of liberty. In a free society people should be allowed to spend their money as they so wish. Want to spend it going to the opera? Fine. Want to spend it playing poker? Fine. Want to spend it on a Chris de Burgh CD? Less fine, clearly, but still nothing to do with the state.
One of the great myths that surrounds gambling is that to liberalise it would be to see a huge explosion in take-up – and consequently a great increase in the number of addicts. However, the facts simply do not support the stigma. In the last decade, the prevalence of gambling has marginally increased (72% of over-16s had participated in some form of gambling in 1999; rising to 73% last year), but it should be remembered that this period saw the unleashing of the great forces of the internet.
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