Is regulated online gambling a good idea?

Gambling, especially online gambling, is a controversial subject in many jurisdictions. While some embrace the phenomenon, realizing they can’t combat it effectively in the age of fast internet, others try to fight the flow, trying to make it illegal.

It makes you wonder: is regulating a business like online gambling a good idea at all? The best answer would be “yes”, for many reasons.

Double standards

“Online gambling” is a collective term covering several different activities: sports betting, poker, casino games, and bingo. The nature of these activities differs. Sports betting and poker are seen as skill-based activities, while casino games and bingo are chance-based. This is probably why it’s perfectly legal to download and use betting apps in South Africa while casino apps and services are banned.

But there’s a catch: sports betting operators offer their users quite a few betting markets that are almost entirely chance-based. For example, you can bet on the outcome of sporting events, which is pretty much predictable, but you can also bet on the correct score, the first goalscorer, or how many red cards will be given out during a soccer match, which is so unpredictable that you can only guess. How is this different from casino games?

Some argue that you can get addicted to casino games (which is true), but you can just as easily bet on sports compulsively.

A science-based approach

Gambling laws should be backed by science, and contain measures and regulations specific to every form of gambling. For this, data needs to be collected and analyzed. Regulators have to take into account the actual behaviour of the users, identify issues, and implement measures aimed at them specifically.

Regulators need to build a legal framework for the online gambling industry from the bottom up, covering everything from age gates to customer protection, and measures to prevent the emergence of gambling problems among users. All this based on information collected in the field.

Are there any benefits?

What regulators must know is that those who are adamant about gambling online can find a way to do so. Actually, several ways. The solutions range from using VPNs to circumvent bans to choosing operators that are less keen on playing by the rules. But this gambling activity is totally beyond the regulators’ control, and the only ones to benefit from it are the operators themselves. Regulating the market means operators will work under the supervision of the appropriate authorities. These authorities can establish rules and measures appropriate for the local market, which the operators will have to observe. Otherwise, they can lose access to the market altogether. Banning access to offshore operators doesn’t work unless a viable local alternative is offered to the players.

And what would be the benefits, you may ask?

First of all, all the money that would otherwise go abroad remains in the local economy. Plus, it generates taxes. The players are required to pay taxes on their winnings, and the operators are required to pay licensing fees on top of their taxes. This means extra revenue for the budget right from the start. And there are indirect benefits to keep into account, like the creation of jobs (in tech support, customer relations etc.).

So, Is Regulated Online Gambling a Good Idea?

Yes, it is. Certainly, a better idea than banning it altogether. If there’s one thing history has thought us, it is that bans, prohibitions, and their like doesn’t work. They only lead to the emergence of a “grey”, perhaps “black” market for the product or service in question. So, instead of blanket bans, governments need to create fact-based regulations for them and enforce them. This can even be beneficial for the consumers and the local budget alike.

Disclaimer: Gambling involves an element of financial risk and may be addictive. Please play responsibly and at your own risk. This post contains material that may or may not be legal in your country. Please play subject to applicable law.


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