A Pound Here, a Pound There

It was drummed into the PR and lobbying industries by their rearguard efforts to rescue the tobacco industry from mounting evidence that it was destroying its own customers. A trader must specialize in one thing yet be ready to recognize when it is time to learn a brand new game. The lure of FOBTs is greatest in places where alternative comforts are hard to find. Gambling commission — Denial, suspension, or revocation of license, permit — Other provisions not applicable. It might not take many people to service the machines, but it takes the machines to generate the income to pay for the people who take the bets on the horses. At a stroke it became impossible for the government to maintain its position that gambling should not be stimulated by advertising, since it was now determined to advertise its own product.



The government imposes a 25 per cent tax on FOBTs. This is deeply regressive taxation. Such easy money makes the government addicted to gambling — just as the Chinese government is addicted to smoking because of the revenue it derives from its tobacco monopoly. According to a paper by E.

Omorov, 50 per cent of net casino revenue comes from addicted and problem gamblers, 4 per cent of the adult population. They make up about 10 per cent of casino customers. Casinos are predatory; so is the government that shares the spoils. In the LRB of 31 July I discussed the concept of separative work units, SWUs, which are used to measure the amount of enriched uranium that a centrifuge can produce.

Around SWUs are needed to produce one kilogram of 95 per cent enriched uranium, weapons grade. It seems that the proposal apparently being negotiated is to limit Iranian SWU production to 10, per year.

There are now 18, centrifuges operating some of the time in Iran. Since each produces about one SWU per year — probably somewhat less — the programme would have some plausibility. But a recent report issued by the Institute for Science and International Security contains a disturbing bit of news: Iran has claimed that it has produced a new centrifuge 16 times more powerful than the existing ones.

There is no plausible need for this centrifuge. Its development once again makes it clear that when it comes to nuclear power, actions in Iran must be scrutinised with great care. Does she mean taken as the absolute truth or its original sense of good news? Log In Register for Online Access. Glyn Maxwell London N1. John Lawton Ashbourne, Derbyshire. Hazel Beeler Dublin, Virginia. Alexander Smith University of Warwick.

Steve Lane Bethesda, Maryland. Jean Owen London SE3. We recommend that before you read our story you read the original article in its entirety. It is necessary to register first on the NY times website. They will have the article freely available only until June Here is a person who has managed to keep a balanced life and raise 6 children while still maintaining his passion for the horse racing.

As the game changed, from trotters to thoroughbreds, he was able to adapt with the times. We have seen many games come and go in the markets, from equity options arbitrage to the disappearance of SOES traders. We have seen markets change from a momentum environment to a trading-range game. A trader must specialize in one thing yet be ready to recognize when it is time to learn a brand new game. Recognize that Dahlman built up a lifetime of racing knowledge. He relies on that experience to interpret the incredible amount of information he gathers.

For newer traders just learning to make their way in this business, recognize that, ultimately, experience is the best teacher. Every day that you trade, you gain experience.

Keep the discipline, keep the faith. Casinos were also permitted in designated areas, again with the explicit purpose of making it possible to keep tabs on them. In both cases legalisation came with tight controls: Bookmakers were not allowed to advertise their activities, or even to indicate what services they offered hence those beaded curtains. Legal betting was for the people who were going to gamble anyway, not for those who might stumble on it.

It was treated as an undesirable but unavoidable fact of life. By licensing it government could also tax it, which made the pill easier to swallow. Servicing the demand was acceptable; stoking it was not. Once the state has decided to legalise gambling, in essence two other choices remain: These are two separate questions. The legislation set Britain on a particular path by answering yes to the first and no to the second.

In many European countries it was the other way round. In France, for instance, it was decided that only the state could be permitted to benefit from the large profits to be made in the gambling business; anything else might threaten the moral fabric of the republic. But given it was the state that was benefiting, there was no reason why advertising should be prohibited, since it was all in a good cause.

In addition France had a national lottery, a pre-Revolutionary practice revived by the socialist governments of the s to boost revenue. So gambling in France was public in both senses: In Britain it remained doubly private.

The state bookmaker the Tote, which operated on the French system of pooling bets was forced to compete for custom with privately owned rivals, which could offer more tempting fixed odds.

This was to be a commercial industry but also a relatively hush-hush one. The result was the rise of the Big Three Mecca was the fourth, until it merged with William Hill in , which were able to take advantage of economies of scale, but also of a host of small independent bookmakers, especially in rural areas, where competition was limited and the clientele was grateful for whatever they could get. By the late s Britain had as many as 15, betting shops, half of which were owned by independents.

In the Labour government set up a Royal Commission to review how the gambling industry in Britain had come to be organised. It was chaired by Victor Rothschild and its eclectic membership included the philosopher Bernard Williams, the sports commentator David Coleman and the agony aunt Marje Proops.

The report they produced two years later was measured, intelligent, elegantly written, slightly agonised and almost wholly ineffectual. The Rothschild Commission accepted that the law on gambling in Britain remained untidy, with plenty of apparent inconsistencies: But it also announced in a line almost certainly from Bernard Williams: Some aspects of the existing law were deemed nitpicking and pointlessly punitive. Why not have lavatories in betting shops?

They did not wish to ditch altogether the principle of unstimulated demand. Earlier Royal Commissions on gambling there had been one in and another in had been explicit about the danger gambling posed to the urban working classes, who were believed to be both more susceptible to its lure and more likely to suffer from its consequences.

They found little evidence of exploitation, reporting that contrary to the conventional wisdom, the betting industry did not generate excessive profits. There was scope for further liberalisation without putting public welfare at risk. This included the possibility of creating a national lottery for good causes.

The reason the report had so little impact was that it appeared at just the wrong time: Its tone was exactly wrong for the coming age of the daughter of a Methodist grocer from Grantham. On the one hand, it was too tolerant of frivolity and fun. On the other, it was too squeamish about the workings of the free market, appearing to suggest that some kinds of money-making were more productive than others. Of course gambling creates wealth what did Rothschild think was paying for all those betting shops and the people who worked in them?

The result was that the gambling industry in Britain remained more or less unreformed throughout the s, a lingering creation of the climate of the early s. For most people — including most politicians — it was out of sight, out of mind.

Two things happened to change this. At a stroke it became impossible for the government to maintain its position that gambling should not be stimulated by advertising, since it was now determined to advertise its own product. The lottery was sold to the public as a flutter, the chance to get very rich, very quickly, on a very small outlay.

These fears turned out to be overblown. There is almost no evidence linking the lottery to gambling addiction. Most people play it sensibly, often in syndicates, and see it as harmless fun, knowing full well that their chances of winning are very remote. The people who turned out to be at risk from their exposure to this new form of gambling were in government.

It tempted politicians to see gambling as a relatively painless way to raise revenue painless in the sense that most punters have their minds on other things. At the same time it made it much harder for politicians to resist the demands from major players in the gambling industry to be allowed to push their own products. Almost immediately the established bookmakers began a lobbying campaign to get the rules against advertising betting services relaxed: Step by step the government started to make concessions.

With each concession the demand came for more liberalisation: The dam was broken. The other big change was the arrival of the internet.

By the late s it was evident that the new technology was going to transform a wide range of industries, even if few people had much idea how, but it was already clear that the internet was an efficient delivery device for the vices that government had traditionally seen as part of its role to discourage. The web was awash with pornography from the outset. Why should gambling be any different? The extensive and inconclusive literature on the psychology of gambling has rarely been shy of finding links between the perverse pleasures of the dead-eyed gambler and other forms of self-abuse.

There was something close to a panic in official circles that people would start using their PCs as online slot machines. Not only did this threaten to make a mockery of government attempts to police our gambling habits, it also threatened the revenue supply, since online wagers would be much harder to tax. The rules regulating the betting industry, which had started to look creaky in the s, were by the turn of the millennium in danger of becoming obsolete.

The New Labour era, with its combination of free-market pragmatism and pop cultural cringe, turned out to be a far more propitious time for gambling reform. Blairites were famously relaxed about people either making pots of money or having fun with it Gordon Brown was another story.

The report they produced in , for the newly created Department for Culture, Media and Sport, was intelligent and elegantly written, but unlike the Rothschild report, it was also pretty forthright. It turned out to be frighteningly effective. Budd made clear his differences from Rothschild. He had no time for squeamishness about non-productive ways of making money. The gambling industry was to be treated as a business like any other, capable of generating a wide range of economic benefits, including jobs.

The Budd report dropped the criterion of unstimulated demand as the test for acceptable gambling. This was partly on pragmatic grounds it was clear by this point that demand was being stimulated all over the place, online and offline and partly a point of principle why should stimulating demand be a bad thing if there was nothing wrong with the demand itself?

The Budd Commission was not out-and-out libertarian, however. There was still a place for paternalism round the edges. But now the test was harm rather than demand: This meant a focus on three types of people in particular: The role of the state was to keep the young safe, to keep an eye on the addicts and to keep the criminals out.

What followed was a series of practical recommendations. Restrictions on advertising should be lifted. Cooling-off periods for entry into casinos should be abolished. Limitations on the location of gambling establishments should be relaxed and where possible the decision should be devolved onto local authorities. By Australia had one of the highest incidences of problem gambling in the developed world. It also had one of the lowest savings rates. These facts were not thought to be unrelated.

As a result, Britain did not turn into Australia. Nor, to the disappointment of some, did any part of it turn into Las Vegas. Blackpool was usually held up as a good place to start, though other places were equally keen. The idea gathered a head of steam during the last phase of the Blair administration but failed to survive the arrival in Downing Street of his successor. In other respects gambling reform in Britain followed the path Budd laid down for it. Advertising was to be allowed.

Competition was to be encouraged. Exploitation was to be guarded against. It was all meant to be good, clean fun. Holding the line against ambient gambling looks increasingly futile. The current raft of TV ads promoting online gambling services make full play of this: The tone of the ads is relentlessly jolly: One that has been doing the rounds recently shows a chubby, bald bloke standing with his shopping trolley in the baked beans aisle.

He glances at his phone, and suddenly a salsa band springs out from behind the tins to get him jigging in rhythm: The excitement is infectious. Seeing her man start to dance, his wife can only smile encouragingly: The sudden proliferation of advertising campaigns like these is a sign of how competitive the industry has become.

In-play betting — the opportunity to gamble on events as they are happening, and to adjust your bets accordingly — is big business. An enormous array of choices is now available to punters when it comes to placing bets, and bookmakers have to work very hard these days to stay in business at all.

Many people continue to believe that bookmaking is a licence to print money. Not so, say the bookies: The online revolution has driven down entry costs, so that all sorts of new players have been making a name for themselves BetOnline, BetonSports, Betstar, Bwin, Sportingbet, Unibet: It has also become much easier for punters to compare the value that different services offer.

Spread betting firms like Sporting Index provide plentiful opportunities to offload winning or losing bets spread betting operates like a futures market, so when the spread moves in your favour you can hedge your position to guarantee a profit ; internet betting exchanges like Betfair make it possible for individual punters to lay the bets themselves, essentially bypassing conventional bookmakers altogether to let people with opposed views on the likely outcome of particular events transact directly with each other.

In some ways the gambling industry has come to resemble the airline industry. The big boys are still around Coral, William Hill and Ladbrokes are all fighting their corner but their market share has fallen. They face rivals that have muscled in on their territory by offering cheaper or better services: Then there is the host of small fry, snapping at their heels with all sorts of innovative offers that can appear too good to be true and sometimes are.

However, as with the airline industry, it would be a mistake to overstate how competitive the gambling business has become. There is still plenty of money to be captured from people who will take what they are offered.

Behavioral Insight

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