Sunday, 17 January 2010

I bet I know where this one's going.


Something's always been missing from that list. Something people do solely for fun and which must therefore be high on the Righteous target list.

Aha, here it is. Gambling.

Specifically, Internet gambling. The Gorgon once wanted to set up a supercasino to generate super amounts of tax, but has had to content himself with the moron tax - the Lottery - and the bookie taxes. The problem, for Labour, with internet gambling is that it's not based in this country and they can't tax it.

Gambling can be a problem for some. It's not for me. I rarely gamble on anything, not because of any moral stance but because I'm just no good at it. I can't pick winners.

Some can, some even make enough to live on through gambling, whether in the stock market or the race track and they don't have a gambling problem either. The problem affects those who are as bad at gambling as I am but who think they're good at it.

The woman in that story has such a problem and has racked up huge debts because of it. Apparently, many women are turning to online gambling, not least because they feel safer at home in front of a screen than in a seedy backstreet bookie's. Why are they gambling?

Karter is scathing about the gambling industry. "I think there is a great demonic force out there leading women quite deliberately into trouble," she said.

Ah, right, it's the Satanic influence of those gambling sites.

Casino and poker websites are attracting women with "female-friendly" gimmicks – including Barbie pink colour schemes, "hunk of the month" pin-ups and gambling horoscopes.

None of which these women gamblers would see unless they quite deliberately sought out a gambling website. The urge to gamble comes first, the seeking out something to bet on comes second. If they were searching for hunks or horoscopes, they'd look and leave. Or move to sites carrying more of what they wanted. The gambling sites don't reach through the screen and grab your credit card.

It's odd that the article focuses entirely on women gamblers. I've known a few addicted gamblers, all of whom were men and all of whom were constantly broke. Every penny went into a bookie's pocket or on a card game. If they had a win, they celebrated and forgot all the losses. One became a seriously boring pub companion because he'd head straight for the slot machine and stay there. If he had to go to the toilet, one of us had to keep 'feeding the machine' until he came back in case someone else took the imminent jackpot. I haven't seen him in years. I expect he's still loading up a slot machine somewhere.

Gambling might be on the rise among women but it's certainly not an exclusively female issue.

So why's it come up now? The government won't ban gambling because they want that lottery money, and the punter taxes at the bookies, plus the income tax on the bookies themselves. What about internet gambling, much of which is offshore and doesn't generate UK taxes? Dealing with that would add another few rifles to the 'Control the Internet Brigade' so they'll be thinking about it.

Are there clues? Well, the old chestnut never fails, does it?

"There are sites that are targeting women. But the children are placed in front of the TV so the children are not getting the emotional nurturing."

For the cheeeldren.

There are worse things a parent can do to a child than sit them in front of the TV. True, it's far from ideal parenting but much, much worse things happen to children in some homes.

But where is the final piece of the jigsaw? Where is the profit margin?

The British Medical Association wants gambling to be a recognised addiction in the NHS, and the money the gambling industry, through the Responsibility in Gambling Trust, pays into treatment programmes – £3.6m in 2007 – raised to at least £10m annually.

The BMA want all this under the control of the NHS and they want ten million beer vouchers a year for their trouble. The gambling industry already pays £3.6 million a year to help people stop gambling but the BMA want that trebled. Now. For the cheeeldren. Next year, they'll want more.

Yes, there are people who have a problem with gambling. But at what point do you define 'problem'? This is the BMA we're talking about, remember. Those who define the obesity problem and have been shrinking the 'acceptable size' since they took control. Those who define the alcohol problem and have routinely tightened the definition of 'problem drinker' since they took control. In a few weeks you'll be a problem drinker if you know where the off-licence is.

To me, it would seem that someone has a problem with gambling when it gets them into debt and they can't stop gambling. A flutter with a few spare quid is not a problem. Racking up the credit card week after week, that's a problem. It has nothing to do with the internet, either. Who's waited behind the lottery-buyers at the cigarette counter and been stunned at how many tickets and scratchcards some of them buy? That's a gambling outlet in a supermarket. You don't have to search for it. It's waiting for you when you go to the shop.

Ah, but that's the lottery. It's good gambling. Those who blow most of their pensions or half of their minimum wage on it are just fine. Leave them alone. It's the untaxed gambling that's bad.

If the BMA win this, they'll have to justify a demand for ten million quid every year. You just know they'll start tightening 'problem gambler' to the guy who puts a quid on the horses once a week, or any form of regular gambling. Even the lottery. As it is, I can find no definition of 'problem gambler' on the NHS, although Gamblers Anonymous has stringent membership requirements.

Gambling will next be denormalised and made socially unacceptable. That's why Labour haven't pushed this line so far. If gambling is denormalised, and if the lottery tickets are at the cigarette counter, well, that link is already half made and the moron tax will collapse.

Will Labour take this on board now? If they think they have the slightest chance of winning the next election, no. If they think they will lose and the Tories will get the lottery income, definitely.

So how big is this problem? Scary numbers time -

The Gambling Commission estimates that there are between 236,000 and 378,000 problem gamblers in Britain, but Gamblers Anonymous thinks it is nearer 600,000.

Well, Gamblers Anonymous has a vested interest in claiming a high customer base. Even so, their figure equates to one percent of the population and depends entirely on the definition of 'problem gambler'. The figures are, apparently, one-quarter female and three-quarters male.

So somewhere between half and one percent of the country are currently estimated (estimated, remember. They never seem to have actual figures for anything) to have a gambling problem. One of them lives in Downing Street and he's lost the entire country. Deal with him first.

It's the first broadside from the Righteous against gambling. They won't stop with this. What happens next depends on how certain Labour are about the outcome of the next election and whether they are downright spiteful enough to block a voluntary revenue stream that might be of use in denting our debts, simply to give the Tories a black eye. No government in power is going to block tax revenue from gambling, especially in the current situation, unless they think they are about to lose power and want to wreck the country for the next lot.

Well, I don't gamble so I shouldn't care anyway, right? I should be out there reviling and denormalising gamblers, just like the herds of sheep doing the same to all smokers and drinkers and fat people now.

I won't be doing that because I oppose all Righteous nannying life-control measures and because it will not solve anything. All it did to smokers was to get us to set up smoky-drinky places and buy imported tobacco. All it will do to drinkers is boost the sale of homebrew equipment and cause the setting up of illicit stills - which will produce drinks far more deadly than anything on sale now.

All that will happen when they get to denormalising gambling is that it'll happen through backstreet bookies with runners and enforcers. If those problem gamblers think the credit card companies are tough, wait until they owe Luigi the Crowbar a couple of grand. Plus interest at a rate that would make a credit card company drool.

Gambling is a tough one. Smoking was easy. They didn't ban tobacco, they just banned using it anywhere. So the tax income keeps coming and a whole section of the population gets treated like dirt for paying it. Pure Socialism. Likewise minimum pricing on alcohol. The tax revenue will rise along with the price and sales will stay the same, and another section of the population gets treated like dirt for paying it.

With gambling it's different. It's not a physical product. You can arrange a bet informally and there's no way for the government to find out. The only way they can tax it is if they know where it's happening. So if they ban gambling, the tax income stops at once but the gambling continues as before. They know banning it won't solve the 'problem'. It never has and was never intended to. It was always just an excuse to boost the taxes and control the population at the same time.

Still, the BMA are on the case now. They'll be pushing for gambling controls. The government will want to hang on to their tax income. The government would love to impose internet controls using gambling as an excuse but if they denormalise gambling, they're risking their tax take again.

This could turn into a really good battle.


Corrugated Soundbite said...

I have a moral stance on gambling. I know, for a fact (usually), that when I pick up a bottle of wine and hand over some cash for it, the wine is mine to drink as and when I see fit (for now - when I get brewing my own the issue is null and void, like a Pools listed match in the rain). I don't like financial risk, so I avoid it like the plague, especially as if nothing else, the Gorgon's policies have forced me to be fiscally astute. Earning my own living provides all the risk I need. I just wish I didn't keep losing all the time. But that's not to stop others...

If you fancy coming round to my place, lighting one up, drinking as much whisky as it takes to send you slur-speeched and placing a little bet on a horse alongside me, you'd be most welcome.

Like charity, most things start at home. The next pubs and bookies will too ;-)

Anonymous said...

Wasn't there a moral panic some years ago regarding those 'amusement' arcades frequented by youngsters? Whatever became of that? And what became of the kids who used them?

TheFatBigot said...

In the USA gambling winnings are subject to income tax. Mr Average-Punter can off-set the stake he placed on the winning bet but not his other losing stakes because they were unconnected to the win. Mr Pro-Better can off-set all his stakes because it is a business for him and all stakes are legitimate business expenses.

I'm amazed this principle of taxation hasn't yet been implemented here.

Anonymous said...

Think you've missed a 'ban_it' out. What about banning butter?

Anonymous said...

This looks like conformity engineering.

Aside from that, is a pattern emerging?

They bring in 24-hour pub opening hours, despite the public outcry. Then they bring in measures to clamp down on drinking - not by reverting to the old licencing hours, naturally.

Second, they OK the building of new casinos. Then they want to clamp down on gamling - not by getting rid of the casinos.

What's next?

Leg-iron said...

FatBigot - our laws stem back to a case in the 1800's which I'd have to hunt for. A guy was making a living gambling and the taxman insisted it should be countedas taxable income.

His counterargument was that if they wanted to call him a business, he could offset his losses against tax. Since he was generally in profit that seemed like a good idea but then someone realised that most gamblers lose. So there would be a huge blast of offset tax from gamblers who would call themselves small businesses and reclaim their losses.

Sounds like the Americans found a way round that. Although all you'd really need to do, if you were gambling regularly, is call it a small business and you'd be in.

Our taxmen backed away. They might look at it again if it's brought to their attention though.

Leg-iron said...

CS- you're a long way away but if I'm ever in the area, you're on.

Leg-iron said...

Anon 1:36. I thought you were kidding but it's real!

Shyam Kolvekar says only radical action can save growing numbers of young adults from heart attacks and clogged arteries.

When I was a kid it was all butter. The only alternatives were lard and revolting margarine. Now we have things like 'I can't believe idiots believe this is butter' and similar and real-butter use is in decline and has been for a long time.

Therefore, if youthful heart attacks are on the rise, it's not because of butter.

This fool is just jumping up with 'Oh, me, me, me too. I've thought of something to ban'.

Ban bans. It's the only way.

Leg-iron said...

Fausty - they banned smoking in public places but they didn't ban smoking. So you can buy fags but can't smoke them. You can go to the pub 24 hours a day (although I haven't seen one that's open 24 hours yet)but you can't drink in there.

You can have the casinos, but no betting.

So when you complain it's been banned, the answer is 'Don't be silly. Here it is, look! It's not banned'.

Like Christmas...

Next? Conformity in waistline is already under way. Pies are legal but don't you dare eat them.

Cars are legal but you're the spawn of Satan if you drive it anywhere.

There are so many things to choose from.

banned said...

Likewise proper lightbulbs. They didn't ban buying them, they just banned selling them and the major retailers caved in.

Serious poker players do not regard themselves as gamblers, they reckon to be earning a living with their skill, dunno what the taxman makes of that or even if they tell him.

I used to play 3 card brag with my mates in the pub as a very young man. I soon learned not to gamble with cash that I could not afford to lose or it meant an early finish to my drinking session so I had my gambling money and my drink'n'fags money.
Actually the gambling wasn't really about the cash, it was the head games that we played on each other.

Ray said...

Actually (I think) it was Tony Blair who was in favour of the supercasino(s) and the other casinos being built. Once GB got into power he shitcanned almost all of them and only one small casino got built. He also put up major taxes on the casinos, and bingo halls and so on.

The Bingo tax has recently been reduced a little but not back to what it was before GB put it up. They have put a big tax on poker that will probably see the game be so unprofitable for the casinos that it won't be offered any more.

GB hates gambling and it is more than just a righteous thing. Mind you the Tories are against gambling especially online so this one will probably ramp up after the election whoever gets in.

Declaration of interest: I play online poker and my business is in the internet gambling area, so I have been keeping an eye on this a bit over the last few years.

PT Barnum said...

@ banned

Nope, the EU banned the importation and manufacture of 100+W incandescent bulbs. So you can still buy em if you can find em. As I do. There was no mercy shown to those of us with severe sight problems who need very bright light and if disability won't stop their nonsense, nothing else will.

Anonymous said...

I just wanted to say I found a 100watt lightbulb in a little shop on Friday..... it comes to something when such a little thing lights up your day lolololol well it's certainly lit up my hall again

Anonymous said...

Another snide article regarding buckfast.

A return to the Capone era beckons me reckons. That or "Victory gin".

Pat said...

I work in many sectors of the gambling industry and this is an excellent article. We have an army of Righteous rent seekers camped outside waiting to tax the industry to death, the Gambling Commission Quango, Responsibility in Gambling Trust fake charity and all sorts of hand wringing academics wanting a payday.
They do have a problem as you rightly say. The current crusade is underage gambling and won't someone protect the cheeelden from the evil bookies -

a 98% failure rate on the first 'mystery shopper / snooping by the state exercise' !
The problem is there at 16 you can back the states three legged donkey, our beloved lottery AND there is no limit to the amount you can stake ! There's that hypocrisy again !

PJH said...

I'm mildly surprised no-one's mentioned today's news about 'banning' semi-skimmed milk in favour of skimmed milk:

David Gillies said...

PJH, I saw it. Here in Costa Rica you can't get fresh whole milk, only UHT (no-one, but no-one has been able to adequately explain why.) Semi-skimmed is pretty bad, but marginally acceptable. 1% milk is abominable, watery rubbish. I'm diabetic, so I am on a rigorously-controlled low carbohydrate diet (like less than an ounce and a half of carbs daily.) I need 2000 calories a day to maintain my body weight at its current 65 kg. It is IMPOSSIBLE to do that without fat. Milk is a palatable, convenient, mineral-rich source of energy. Simultaneously we have a credentialled moron saying we should ban butter, another important energy source for me. What this particular group of bansturbators is doing will make life more difficult for a large number of people whose lives are difficult enough as it is. I hate them so very, very much. We did not ask them to intrude on our lives. We do not want their unsolicited advice. But still they harp on, and on, and on, seemingly oblivious to the contempt in which we hold them. They're like doorstep missionaries that, when you tell them you're not interested, nip round the back and climb in through the living-room window.

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