Should the Government Cure Gambling Habits?


The lottery attracts hundreds of thousands of players every year, and Michigan has a large amount of players annually. Michigan’s internet gambling, however, has some wondering whether restrictions and safeguards should be put in place in order to avoid harm for Michigan residents.  Political columnist Tim Skubick writes on this topic to address the potential harms of the status quo. While gambling is, in and of itself, a problem with severe consequences, one wonders if the government is in the best position to cure it.

The Problem & the Proposed Plan
Skubick cites State Sen. Rick Jones (R-Grand Ledge), who raises skepticism that internet gambling could get quickly out of hand for players.  Playing from the comfort of home, internet gamblers could soon go too far and overspend their money, resulting in “mental health disorders; poor general health; drug, alcohol, and nicotine dependence; personal debt and bankruptcy; legal troubles; reduced work productivity and job loss; and, in extreme cases, suicidal ideation and behavior,” according to an article from ResponsibleGambling.org. Sen. Jones’ focus, however, is on the financial challenges that result from internet gambling, and in this article, I don’t want to focus too much on the consequences of the addiction of gambling.  Rather, I want to zoom in on the solution to curbing potential abuse from internet gambling.

Skubick presents a plan in which a player could deposit $500 and wage bids from that amount.  If that money needs to be replenished, it can be done so every 48 hours.  A player can continue playing until that $500 is gone or the player has won millions of dollars.  Sen. Jones believes that people could literally “lose your home from your couch” due to the potentially irresponsible behavior and habits of players.

While I think that Skubick’s idea has good intentions, I think that it is the role of private organizations and groups to take care of lottery reform.  While this would be a good ‘checks and balances’ system, the government simply lacks the power for enforcement and available funds in order to address this issue.

Disadvantages: finances and enforcement
Should this plan prevail, the state lottery commission would need to expand its powers to accept the responsibility for managing and maintaining accounts for hundreds of thousands of players in Michigan. By covering this program, the government may need to draw away valuable funds that are needed for other departments in the government.

Lottery players go into the games understanding that a lack of self-control could end up damaging their lives and fortune.  Thus, they are aware of the impacts of gambling their money.  With this program, however, the government cannot actually stop individuals from gambling or reduce its usage effectively.  What is to say that individuals won’t open another account or play off their friend’s account?

Skubick adds that the state can also help with counseling and other services necessary for this program to be in place.  Yet personalized services such as psychological treatment would drastically stray from the role of the government to serve the overall interests of the people.  Individual self-help and preventative solutions and plans should arise from small businesses and organizations.

What should happen?
I strongly believe that abuse is a common problem that all gamblers – internet and traditional – may face.  It is, however, a habit that gamblers may not want to shake off that easily, and the government simply lacks the resources to combat the problem singlehandedly.

While this idea has kind intentions, I believe that the government isn’t the best authority or go-to source for this.  Private organizations and groups should be forthcoming about such restrictions.  If gamblers truly want to have accountability and oversight in their practices, they will likely be willing to sign up for programs such as this.  If they truly want to be restrained from overspending and need outside help, they could seek out like-minded groups and organizations. The aforementioned article from ResponsibleGambling.org gives quotes of people who have reached out to the organization asking for help with their addiction.  Likewise, other groups such as Gambler’s Anonymous seek to cure gambling addictions.  Organizations such as the National Coalition Against Legalized Gambling and Gambling Reform And Society Perception (GRASP) aim to build public awareness and prevent the problem of gambling addictions.

Likewise, if organizations truly desire to see reform in this sector, they will propose individual plans like Skubick’s to curb the amount spent on gambling and help with individual self-control. Counseling and psychological treatment should stay with the private sector, not the government.

Instead of the government mandating authority over lottery players, this plan should be in the jurisdiction of individual organizations.

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