Thursday, June 23, 2005

A hell of a gamble to lose

How can banning VLTs solve a gambling problem, exactly? Halifax -- Religious leaders appealed to the Nova Scotia government yesterday to ban VLTs in the province, adding their influential voices to an anti-gambling movement gathering strength across the country. The Interfaith Council -- made up of Roman Catholic priests, Anglican bishops, Islamic leaders, Jewish rabbis and others -- said it is seeing more of its congregants lose homes, families, jobs and sometimes their lives because of addictions to the machines. The leaders urged the provincial Tories to eliminate all of the 3,200 government-owned video lottery terminals and boost support for people dealing with gambling addiction. If you're going to subscribe to the concept of gambling being an addiction, an obsessive behavioural disorder (and I can buy that, being more than a bit obsessive-compulsive myself), then removing one means of fulfilling the compulsion will have little to no effect. Those who genuinely feel as though they need to gamble will find a fix elsewhere, whether online, with lottery tickets, or the like; the result is that a ban punishes only those who - for whatever reason, foolish though it might be - don't have a gambling problem, but only want to play the machines for occasional entertainment. If the psychological tendency towards gambling addiction was universal or even widespread, this might be justifiable; as it's not, an outright ban seems like unnecessary infringement on the free action of those otherwise unaffected. The Interfaith Council would do better to emphasize the potential hazards of gambling directly to their congregations, rather than demanding the nanny state step in.

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