Britain’s rethink of gambling

Adapted from an article published in The Christian Science Monitor, November 1, 2016.

Britain’s government under Prime Minister Theresa May has decided that state-regulated gambling may be out of control. One sign: Personal losses from gambling rose 12 percent in 2015. Sports minister Tracey Crouch has asked for a review of the industry with the aim of “ensuring that people, particularly the young and vulnerable, are protected from the risk of gambling-related harm.”

Britain is not alone in its concern. Many governments have lately sought similar reviews. In France, for example, an official review released this past fall found the industry is badly regulated. A third of young people between 15 and 17 are gambling. About 5 percent of gamblers are either moderately or excessively addicted.

Reviews like this are often difficult for governments because they rely on tax revenues from gambling. Such money is often cloaked in virtue by being designated for spending on sports, culture, or education. In Britain, however, the problems from gambling have become too difficult to ignore.

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