The gambling industry in times of austerity

By Dan Iliovici, Vice-president ROMBET

Being in a pre-election year, we are witnessing a veritable barrage of legislative proposals directed against our sector of activity. I will not review them here, each of these projects being analyzed and fought with legal and economic arguments in the last episodes of the series of articles “Practice of gambling”, under the signature of Mr. Anchidim Zăgrean, president of ROMBET.

However, I would like to make some principled observations regarding the mechanisms by which gambling becomes the “tack of beatings” every time we approach the elections, or when a so-called “bomb” appears in the media, an article designed to stigmatize this form for fun, for spending free time.

A first point is that of our “integration” into the anti-gambling atmosphere at the European level, and not only… Politicians (some, not really all) from all meridians, of all (political) colors, in a fierce fight election, tries to attract the sympathy and votes of the public by any means, on any topic with a public outlet, through a speech with maximum emotional impact. And here gambling is the “base”.

I must stress in this context the fact that the other two ubiquitous vices: smoking (traditional or electronic, “smokeless”) or alcohol consumption, especially beer, – widely tolerated and socially accepted vices – gambling “benefit” from a special treatment from the media and, as a consequence, from the politicians.

It is very difficult to present to the public a government program based on stimulating investment, equalizing the balance of payments, coherent and sustainable social measures, etc., instead it becomes very simple and easy to propose banning gambling within a radius of x meters around the kindergartens. We therefore have legislative proposals of several lines, “argued” by concern for the people with narratives like… “I have a friend… who heard(!) about a case of a gambler who lost his money in gambling”.

Plain and simple!

And if someone dares to say that the vast majority of players use this means of entertainment in a balanced and responsible way, they will immediately be labeled as being paid by the industry to support their cause, or that they are directly (or indirectly) involved in gambling.

With such a speech, based on pressing some emotional triggers, there are no economic arguments, numbers based on scientific market studies. Never mind the presentation of the industry’s education, prevention and treatment programs for problem gamblers.

To paraphrase a classic expression, many industry operators choose to remain silent, for fear that… “Whatever you say will be used against you!”

And if we are still in the column of famous expressions, here I would add, in a pinch, the situation in which the authority responsible for our industry is – ONJN. Caught between the hammer (media, society) and a hard rock (legislator) – (see populist initiatives or inapplicable legislative provisions) – the Office has been facing internal organizational problems for a long time, which makes the subject even more sensitive.

To emphasize the unprofessional way (to use a euphemism) in which the regulations are “developed” in our country, I suggest you read the series of articles dedicated to an extensive review of gambling legislation in Great Britain, one of the strictest legislations in the field .

Thus, in the preamble of the White Paper document, officially titled “High Stakes: gambling reform for the digital age”*1, the benefits of gambling are emphasized:

”Benefits of gambling

There are also benefits to gambling which should be weighed in decision making, although they do not negate the need to prevent gambling-related harm. For most people who participate, gambling is a leisure and entertainment activity, as explored in the Gambling Commission’s research into why people gamble and its research into customer journeys. While the risks vary by product and other factors, gambling participation is generally not in itself harmful and may even be positive.

Gambling can be sociable, can help tackle loneliness and isolation, can enhance the enjoyment of other activities, and can be a valuable pastime in its own right, although quantifying these benefits is inherently difficult.

For the majority of people in the Gambling Commission’s research, gambling was just another normal activity which they reported feeling completely in control of. While motivations varied, around three quarters of respondents to the why people gamble study agreed that the opportunity to win money was a part of the enjoyment, while 66% agreed they ‘get a thrill from finding out if they’ve won or not’.

(to be continued in the next issue)


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