The Shadow Culture Secretary, Tom Watson, has stated that there would be limitations implemented in regard to the amount of money online gamblers can spend if he were in Office. This highly interventionist strategy will not solve the problem of addiction. It is acceptable for someone to argue that a large sum of money should not be gambled with, however, to put a person’s opinion and interest above others who have a right to spend their income where one sees fit is patronising and authoritative, and with zero consent.
Economic liberty is a fundamental right in a free society, for the state to dictate how one should spend his money is not their responsibility; it is the individual who knows best in how to distribute his income.
Serious cases of addiction that arise from frequent gambling should be handled with care and compassion but should not create a protectionist society where the possibility of harm causes the state to suppress choice. The BBC has stated, ‘Britain has the largest regulated online gambling market in the world, generating £4.7bn for companies per year - and is expected to grow’.
Safeguards are necessary to protect vulnerable people from harm. This is represented in current regulations, the Gambling Commission highlighted ‘online gambling firms must verify a customer's age before the customer can withdraw winnings’. Clearly there are problems that need addressing but as Tom Watson suggests, putting a ‘culture of limits’ on the British people is not the answer.
In 2017 the Gambling Commission argued an ‘industry-led and managed solution is best placed to deliver an effective and efficient scheme by building, in particular, on the core experience and expertise in the industry of developing and overseeing large IT solutions, as well as administering current self-exclusion schemes.’
The onus and responsibility should be placed, not on the Government, but industries and the individual. For example, the gambling company 888 stepped forward with technical problems to which the Gambling Commission stepped in. Industry has to hold morality in instances such as these to ensure the protection of its customers are achieved.
In recent decades, our society has become dependent on the state being responsible for people’s addiction and suffering, it is the individual who holds the capacity to seek help and change his lifestyle. If this fails, the state should intervene but for the shadow culture secretary to start determining people’s actions is bizarre to those who understand their economic situation and feel it is their right to spend a large sum of money.
Labour’s gradual incline towards a ‘culture with limits’ is not the answer. Industry needs to take responsibility and hold morality for their customers when faced with problems. The individual needs to take onus for actions he chooses and not make the state take decisions for him. A safety net for serious cases is necessary but this should not deprive those who, in this case, wish to gamble large sums of money.