Should gambling be illegal?
- In terms of gambling laws, IHLResearch.org explains that 'casino-style gambling is legal statewide in only two US states – Nevada and Louisiana. Nevada is also one of four states where it is legal to play real money casino online.' Otherwise, some states and native reservations allow gambling in limited regions.
- The Center for Problem Gambling reports that '2-4% of adults have problem gambling in the US.'
- The US state with the highest gross gaming revenue of casinos in 2020 was Nevada, reporting $7.87 billion. Still, the state with the highest tax revenue from casinos was Pennsylvania, at roughly $1.2 billion.
- A 2018 Gallup Poll found that 69% of Americans find gambling 'morally acceptable.'
Gambling should not be made illegal, as doing so would only exacerbate its negative aspects for individuals and society. Gambling is something that humans have always done, and even dates back to the Paleolithic era.
Whether for the rush, to make money, to ease stress, or to socialize, people will gamble regardless of legal status. So, making the practice illegal simply won't stop it. Instead, this $335 billion industry will move into the shadows where it cannot be monitored, taxed, or regulated. Countries that have banned gambling have done so for subjective reasons such as religion and morality.
When gambling is done outside the law, there is no legal recourse for people being taken advantage of by criminals and other bad actors. It becomes a mechanism of funding and control by gangs and mafias. Because gambling is addictive, gangs can use it, just like drugs, to control people. And when those people can no longer pay their debts, they are often the victims of violence.
Further, when gambling is illegal, it becomes taboo. Those with addictions cannot seek help as easily and can end up living patterns that destroy families and lead to suicide or other issues that affect society.
Gambling is a voluntary act, and in a free society, people should be able to participate as long as they are not causing harm to or coercing others. Those who gamble responsibly are free to do so by keeping it legal. Those addicted can seek counseling and support provided by funding derived from gambling revenues and taxes.
The US government's attempt to outlaw alcohol consumption resulted in the repeal of Prohibition. Illegalizing gambling would lead to a similar outcome.
Utah and Hawaii are the only two states where all types of gambling are illegal. However, they shouldn’t be the only ones, especially considering the adverse effects of this recreational activity.
First of all, from a health perspective, gamblers tend to experience physical and mental problems. Research shows they have higher rates of developing stress-related diseases, including heartburn and backache. Over time, gamblers may also develop mental illness, such as anxiety, or resort to alcohol and other substance use.
Gamblers are also more prone to end up in financial debt. A study by The Wall Street Journal uncovered that 98% of gamblers lost money. Upon comparing big losers with big winners, the former outnumbered the latter by 128 to 1.
Gambling is also addictive. Like drug users, pathological gamblers may require strong hits to feel their best. Therefore, they end up pursuing riskier ventures and bet more money over time.
All of these issues can take their toll on the emotional and physical health of gamblers’ families. For instance, the children of gamblers can be at a higher risk of depression, conduct problems, and gambling problems.
Society, too, isn’t spared while gambling is legal, despite the so-called economic benefits the gaming industry offers. Gamblers may resort to crimes such as theft, fraud, and street robbery to fund their gambling. Online gambling may also open another can of worms as it may be used for fraudulent acts like money laundering.
Therefore, maybe it’s time for the 48 states legalizing gambling to reconsider their stance. Only then can they truly curb this problematic activity and prevent people from engaging in it.