Time to Rethink on Gambling?

10 Nov,2021

 

By Sanjeev Kotnala

 

Sanjeev KotnalaThe government is known to act slowly and is constrained by the operating laws. Most of the time, the government tries to manipulate, control and at times ban the consumption of things that are addictive or can lead to addictive or polarised behaviour.

 

Things that may be against the moral and ethical fabric of family and society. Porn, tobacco, prostitution, gambling, and the liquor industry are prime examples of it. They are addictive, impair judgment, accentuate unwanted behaviour, and have long-term health, financial or environmental impact.

 

Even though controlled and at times banned, many products and services find ways to service and satisfy their large clientele. They may be prohibited from marketing and advertising but remain a perfectly legal product or service, with surrogate branding and advertising.

 

Everyone knows and easily identifies a surrogate. None of the operating laws effectively block their marketing and sales. There is clear polarisation in the industry about working on legal surrogates. The polarisation exists even in the case of celebrity endorsement and association. Many celebrities are open about their decision not to associate with such products and services.

 

Similarly, some products claim to require a skill. They ask you to make judgmental calls like financial investments, the stockmarket, and insurance. The warnings incorporated in the advertising for such products and services are standard but worded and delivered at a scorching pace. Most of the audience is blind and deaf to these warnings even though the government keeps asking to read all the documents and make a conscious open-eyed decision. And, one can say, that is the maximum the authorities can do.

 

There is no denying that gambling is addictive and is banned in most states. Wherever they operate, they are within a controlled environment.

 

And then there are these fantasy leagues hiding behind the clause of being a game of skill. They have been able to convince the courts of this condition and now are big business. No surprise that the communication of these leagues now voices a warning of its addictive behaviour and possible financial risk.

 

There are ways to control maximum bet or quantum of play. It does need skill for proper planning and playing. There is some truth in it. However, when you see the set of people playing these games and interacting with them, you know where skill is ranked as a necessity and the dependence of luck. The level of addiction is high.

 

The fantasy leagues ensure that the participants are not betting on the result of a particular game or a specific player’s performance. The bet covers points earned by a   particular team but a fresh team constituted by the better. The prize or reward is fixed and clearly communicated  in advance. It also talks of prize money not  a result of  participants or bet money. And at the end the winning to reflect the use of  skill, talent and expertise.

 

It is more like the single-number lottery- the way the large subset plays them. I may be exaggerating the situation. Still, I sincerely think there is a need for more than self-regulation. We know laws lag real life. The category keeps finding loopholes and exemptions to exploit trends, interests, and rules.  But it’s time that we had more than a cursory discussion on responsibly gambling and control/self-regulation. There is a need of One Country One law for such activities. And if there is a need for regulation, it must be implemented universally.

 

 

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