Should We Have One Day A Year With No Gambling?
It might seem like something from a dystopian movie, but every now and then the idea crops up that we should take one day out of every year and ban gambling for a 24-hour period. The idea is that all licensed companies would, as part of their licensing agreement, agree to take no bets on the 24-hours in question. Obviously the gambling industry as a whole would be against such an idea, yet it could be timed to coincide with when there are no major sporting events taking place, meaning that their losses would be limited.
The reason why some people think it is an idea that should be discussed is that it would act as something of a circuit-breaker for problem gamblers. Those that are addicted to gambling that can barely spend one hour away from placing a bet, let alone one day. Forcing them to do so would have the effect of putting them in a situation where they couldn’t bet even if they wanted to, meaning that they could take the time to consider their relationship with the betting industry. What would be a minor inconvenience for most could be a big help for those that need it. The big question is, though, would it work even if we did it and how could we possibly prevent someone betting with an unlicensed betting site on that day?
How It Would Work Practically
The first thing to consider is how introducing a blanket ban on betting for a period of 24-hours would work in a practical sense. In essence, it would require the co-operation of all of the gambling companies that obtain a licence from the United Kingdom Gambling Commission, perhaps making it part of the licensing agreement that they sign up to when they get their licence in the first place. The agreement would be that, for a period of 24-hours, they would not take any bets of any form on any of the platforms that they offer.
Any all-in-one-place outfits that offer sportsbook, poker, bingo, casino and so on would have to cease operations for 24-hours, meaning that no one could place any bets at all. The National Lottery would have to agree not to sell tickets, which would include their retailers up and down the country removing scratch cards from sale and turning their machines off. Bingo halls would have to shut, as would physical casinos, arcades and anywhere else that has licensed gambling. Literally removing the ability for anyone on the country to place any sort of bet for the entire 24-hour period.
Could It Happen?
Of course, having a sense of how it would work in a practical sense is one thing, but figuring out whether it could actually happen or not is something else entirely. The first objections would come from the key figures in the gambling industry, who would no doubt claim that it would be impossible to shut down their websites for such a length of time. That is not true, but the truth doesn’t matter when you’re trying to make an argument. It could be done, as any computer programmer would tell you, but they wouldn’t want to do it.
Anyone that has tried to buy a National Lottery ticket overnight will know that you often can’t do so, with ticket sales suspended during certain times. This proves that the ability to shut down sites exists, if those involved wanted to put their minds to the task. Equally, bookmakers and casinos closed their doors when the health crisis was ongoing in 2020 and 2021, so there is the ability to stop punters from entering the physical places that they choose to place bets when the requirement is there to do so. It is just a matter of there being a will, given there is definitely a way.
The biggest objection from gambling companies would be that they would lose a huge amount of money during the period when no gambling is taking place, but even that isn’t entirely true. Though it is certainly the case that they wouldn’t be able to make money during the 24-hours in question, the biggest gambling companies in the industry makes billions in profit every year, so a 24-hour period is hardly likely to hit the profit margins in any meaningful sense. On top of that, the 24-hours could be timed for when there are no major sporting events taking place.
What Would Be The Benefits?
The biggest question that most would want an answer to is what the benefits of such an action would be. It is obviously not an easy thing to figure out, given that we haven’t really got any evidence to base our answer on. What we can look at, though, is the manner in which problem gamblers approach their betting. Those that can’t control their urges to place wagers find themselves doing it all the time, never knowing how to stop or when they’ll be able to walk away from the world of betting permanently.
Giving them a 24-hour period when it would be physically impossible for them to place any wagers would mean that they could get started on the journey to recovery. For a lot of problem gamblers, this enforced break would allow them to begin the process of stopping gambling, perhaps being the first day of many. It would give them the chance to reflect on their betting habits and maybe get in touch with the likes of Gamblers Anonymous or GamCare, putting the blocks in place to ensure that they don’t begin gambling again when the 24-hours is up.
There is a feeling amongst those that specialise in helping people to stop gambling that taking everything one day at a time allows gamblers to move away from placing bets. It is often the case that problem gamblers get themselves into more and more debt chasing after the money that they’ve lost, so putting a 24-hour block on betting would mean that people wouldn’t lose any money for a day and could therefore stop themselves from chasing those losses the day after. Focussing on one day at a time would allow for a period of self-reflection that might lead to recovering from gambling addiction.
Why It Might Not Work
If you read the stories of gambling addicts you’ll often discover they all say something similar: they were able to stop for a time, but always went back to it. Stopping people from betting for 24-hours might well stop them from betting there and then, but for many it would just result in them counting down the hours until they could place another bet. As with football grounds not allowing people to drink in sight of the pitch, resulting in people binge-drinking before and after games, problem gamblers would likely spend more leading up to then ban and then after it was lifted.
There is also the problem of black market betting. Whether we like it or not, and the UKGC most certainly does not like it, black market gambling is a thing. It is unregulated and unsafe, but if someone wants to place a bet with an unlicensed betting company then they will be able do so. The chances are high that, in the event that a decision was taken to block all licensed gambling for a period of 24-hours, some people would turn to the world of black market betting in order to get their wagers placed when they wanted.
This, in turn, would likely give such markets a new audience that might not have known about black market sites before. They might discover that there are bets that they can place there that they can’t place with licensed bookmakers, meaning that they continue to give their money to illegal sites even after the 24-hour block is over. Gamblers, especially those that have a problem, will find a way to place bets if they wish to. The one thing that we don’t want to do is introduce them to other ways to bet that they won’t be able to exclude themselves from.
Ultimately, of course, money talks. The betting companies would not be happy to miss out on large sums of money, so they would doubtless do everything in their power to stop such a 24-hour circuit-breaker from happening. In turn, the money that they give to the government would be enough to stop such a thing from taking place, such is the extent to which the gambling industry has influence in the corridors of power. Whilst it is a shame that that sort of thing happens, it is also the truth that it does.
There are too many people that would come out against a similar 24-hour ban on gambling to mean that it could take place. The good news for those that wish for such a thing is that the ability to self-exclude exists. If you believe that you have a problem with your gambling then it might be worth looking into excluding yourself from bookmakers, online casinos and bingo companies for as long as you can. Give yourself that circuit-breaker and use it to look for help, both from your family and friends and from companies designed to offer it.