From Institute of Economic Affairs <[email protected]>
Subject A Safer Bet
Date March 14, 2021 8:59 AM
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The government is currently running a public consultation to find out how to make Britain’s gambling laws ‘fit for the digital age’. Since the digital age was well underway in 2007 when the last Gambling Act came into force, the consultation may have been prompted less by technology and more by a growing backlash against gambling in general.

The informal coalition of faith groups, pressure groups and rival elements of the gambling industry that successfully banished fixed-odds betting terminals from bookmakers is looking for new dragons to slay. On the agenda is a total ban on gambling advertising and sponsorship, a ban on VIP schemes and ‘inducements’, and making online games less enjoyable by slowing them down and cutting prize money. There has even been talk of limiting how much people can spend on gambling, with the Social Market Foundation proposing a monthly cap of £100.

The rate of problem gambling has not risen in Britain in twenty years despite the rise of online gambling and the proliferation of gambling advertising. It is low by international standards and there is no reason to think that the blunt tools and ham-fisted prohibitions of anti-gambling activists will drive it lower.

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As I argued this week in a new IEA report -A Safer Bet: Gambling and the risks of over-regulation ([link removed]) - we should embrace technology because it gives gambling operators unprecedented opportunities to intervene when punters are behaving erratically. They can only do that if players are using licensed websites. The worry is that if we make licensed websites less appealing, we will push players towards the unlicensed, unregulated and untaxed sector.

I wrote about this for The Telegraph ([link removed]) and Conservative Home ([link removed]) , and discussed it with Philip Davies MP on Wednesday’s episode of Live With Littlewood - which you can watch here ([link removed]) .

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Also on Live With Littlewood, I discussed the long-awaited end of lockdown with the Times’ science editor Tom Whipple. It seems that dates are driving the government’s strategy far more than data. The data continue to exceed expectations while the dates remain a long way off.[link removed]

Figures from Israel ([link removed]) published on Thursday suggest the Pfizer vaccine is 97% effective in preventing symptomatic disease. In the UK, the number of COVID-19 patients in hospital has fallen much faster than the models predicted. But judging by comments from Boris Johnson and Chris Whitty this week, Britain’s roadmap is a one way ratchet. It can be slowed down but never sped up.

Christopher Snowdon
Head of Lifestyle Economics, Institute of Economic Affairs

As mentioned by Christopher above, the IEA's new briefing paper 'A Safer Bet' was featured across the media this week. Christopher appeared on talkRadio to discuss some of the more "paternalistic" restrictions advocated by campaign groups, and wrote for The Telegraph ([link removed]) and Conservative Home ([link removed]) .

IEA Director of Communications Annabel Denham wrote for Spiked ([link removed]) on the mission creep we see from single-issue activists, while IEA Head of Media Emily Carver wrote for CapX ([link removed]) on how anti-gambling campaigners are loading the dice against fun.

The report was also covered across the trade press, including in the Racing Post ([link removed]) ,Gambling News ([link removed]) and EGR Global ([link removed]) . You can read the full report here ([link removed]) .

This week saw the SNP's controversial Hate Crime Bill pass through the Scottish Parliament by 82 votes to 32. The legislation could see even private conservations prosecuted and result in jail time.

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The Act will allow authorities to charge individuals simply on the basis of whether their words can be defined as being 'abusive by a reasonable person'.

IEA Head of Cultural Affairs Marc Glendening warned that this gives the authorities "carte blanche to suppress any robustly expressed statement on issues defined by some, subjectively, as matters of great personal sensitivity."

Responding to the news, Marc argued that the Bill - now Act - is "a betrayal of the liberal ideas of the Scottish Enlightenment". He added: “Who is to define what constitutes ‘reasonableness’ and how can it be measured objectively? In a free society, surely it is the right of citizens to express views that the allegedly ‘reasonable’ majority rejects as extreme or objectionable.

“The vast majority of Scots have told opinion pollsters that they oppose this illiberal piece of legislation. It will be interesting in time to see if this democratic majority makes its voice truly heard regarding this Act.”

You can read Marc's comments, which featured in the Daily Express ([link removed]) , here ([link removed]) .

With the SNP likely to do well in the upcoming Scottish Parliament elections, the battle over Scottish independence rages on. Support for Welsh independence is also reportedly growing – although it still remains well behind support for the status quo.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has made it clear that he will not grant a second Scottish independence referendum, even if the SNP wins a majority in May’s Holyrood elections. But is the future of the union secure?

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This Tuesday at 6pm, the IEA will host another Lockdown Showdown ([link removed]) debate, this time between IEA Director General Mark Littlewood and Marc Glendening, our Head of Cultural Affairs.
Should the UK go its separate ways, or is the union worth fighting for? And should independence movements have the backing of classical liberals? Join the debate on Tuesday at 6pm here ([link removed]) .

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*ACADEMIC AND RESEARCH DIRECTOR: The IEA is looking to recruit a new Academic and Research Director (A&RD) following the elevation of our current A&RD, Syed Kamall, to the House of Lords. The A&RD role broadly covers three areas of work and activity: Research, Outreach and Management. Ideally, we are looking for a candidate who is exceptional in all of these areas. We are, however, open to the possibility of a more flexible recruitment approach: the role is highly specialised and requires an unusual and diverse range of skills, talents and experience. Full description available here. ([link removed])

* Harm reduction or humbug?

On Thursday, 18th March at 1pm (GMT) EPICENTER and the IEA will be hosting a private webinar discussion on harm reduction and the European Union’s upcoming legislative plans.

What are the most counterproductive policies expressed by the Commission’s Scientific Committee on Health, Environmental and Emerging Risks (SCHEER) and the Europe’s Beating Cancer (BECA) plan? How can evidence-based policy making be put back on the agenda? Can free market liberals endorse any kind of regulation that curbs the freedom of choice of consumers?

This webinar will be chaired by Adam Bartha, Director of EPICENTER. He’ll be joined by IEA Head of Lifestyle Economics Christopher Snowdon, Director of the World Vapers' Alliance Michael Landl and Cecile Philippe, President of the Institut économique Molinari.

If you would like to attend, please register by following the linkhere ([link removed]) or contact us directly at [email protected] (mailto:[email protected])

*Upcoming Sixth Form conferences

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Throughout March, the IEA and the Vinson Centre for the Public Understanding of Economics and Entrepreneurship at the University of Buckingham will be hosting a number of free (virtual) conferences for Sixth Form students. Find out morehere ([link removed]) . You can sign up for any of our planned conferences this term and if you are interested in partnering on a future event please drop Brittany a line (mailto:[email protected]) .


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