"Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he."
-- Proverbs 29:18, King James Bible (KJV)

Monday, September 21, 2015

Gambling and Gaming Laws and Online Fantasy Sports : What is Legal? What can be Prohibited?

The paternal nature of gambling and gaming lawmaking arises out of the well-meaning illusion that human vices can be eradicated by prohibitions, a faulty line of thinking already clearly repudiated by the failure of the Prohibition of alcohol beverages in the USA via the 18th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, which was subsequently repealed by the 21st Amendment to that same Constitution -- for the simple reason that the law did not work.

Amber Phillips at The Fix in the Washington Post asks:

Are daily fantasy sports even legal?

American and international laws on gaming and gambling reflect the minds of legislators trying to cope with "games of chance" in the real world.

What are the odds that the legislators have it right? Not very good.

Anyone who does not realize that life itself is in many respects a "game of chance" just has not been around long enough or seen enough. Life is a lottery in many, even important, aspects. You roll the dice and take your chances.

Is there ANY empirical evidence anywhere that gambling and gaming laws work, e.g. that they actually help to eliminate gambling or gaming addiction?

While it is regrettably very true that excessive gambling can cause personal and/or family ruin and can also be the cause of great harm to third parties, is there ANY evidence that legislation in force achieves ANY of the goals that moralistic prohibitionary laws intend? or are people simply kidding themselves?

The harms that excessive gambling viz. gaming cause should of course be reduced, but what is the right way to do it?

Chief among these harms is the simple fact that too many people modernly spend too much time on gambling viz. gaming pursuits, often to the detriment of their family, profession, and social and other responsibilities. How is that to be corrected?

Various age-old human vices may be bad, but simple prohibition does not appear to be the right method to get rid of them.

For laws, there has to be some empirical proof that prohibition-type legislation works. What is that proof for current gambling and gaming laws?

Certainly the prevailing standards are ridiculous,
and not just in the United States.

Take Germany as an example, where the German Lottery is state-owned and is a marvelous source of income for the government, expressly prohibiting private institutions from doing the same. Does that make it better? See:
We understand very well society's need to keep people from gambling away their fortunes, or their salaries, simply for the sake of gambling (or gaming). 

Those who are addicted to such pursuits and who risk their financial well-being must ultimately be taken care of by others, so that the State has an over-riding interest to make sure this does not happen, at least, as far as possible. Anyone who wants to gamble away his or her fortune can still do so in the present world and "a fool and his or her money is easily parted". Do not worry about that.  Many even do that on the stock market. Can we prohibit that gambling too?

Instead of strict prohibitions, why not put LIMITS on how much anyone can game or gamble in a given year, or month, or week, based on how much they earn, own or have? Why do gambling laws have to be totally permissive or totally exclusionary? Why not have the tax authorities issue individual gambling permits for given amounts, based on a person's financial returns?

A similar solution would be a possibility for alcohol abuse and drunk driving. One strike and you are out. Prohibit purchase and use of alcohol for offenders, not for those who can deal with alcoholic beverages responsibly.