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Betting on addiction
by Asa Butcher
2008-04-19 08:11:56
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There is rarely a news story that jumps out and waves its arms for attention, but this week I couldn't fail to overlook YLE Online News' headline "Finns Lose Millions in Online Poker to Foreign Firms Yearly". Look again at the headline and see if something is slightly amiss… surely the headline should only read "Finns Lose Millions in Online Poker" with the story focusing on the gambling addiction, yet it actually is a complaint that income from domestic gambling could stay within the country.

The report, originally from the Finnish newspaper Keski-Uusimaa, states that Finns spend as much as 50 million euros annually on foreign online poker games and the newspaper has determined that if there were some tweaks to the betting law then domestic online poker would bring in several million euros in additional income, which could be used for public projects. Ahh yes, public projects, such as Gamblers Anonymous and the Samaritans, which rather flies in the face of rationality.

Why doesn't the Finnish government just legalise prostitution and drugs if they want some extra cash to throw at health and education? Where's the harm? Think of the huge influx of extra tax they could throw at public services and public projects with a decent percentage rate on top of a blow job or a six ounce bag of "pre-cut" black tar heroin. Finland really could then have the best education system in the world and a health system to rival even Cuba, if Michael Moore's Sicko is any guide.

In a recent telephone survey of 5,008 Finns conducted last spring, approximately 41% of the population gamble at least once a week, and approximately every tenth person participates in gambling activities several times a week. Approximately 1% of respondents estimated that they gambled to an extent which constituted a problem, which in proportion to the entire population is around 38,000 Finns.

There is further irony. Two-thirds of the respondents believed the Finland's betting monopoly is a sound method of limiting the adverse effects of gambling and Finland's government even justified the monopoly to the European Commission by saying it keeps gambling under control. Not only is the betting monopoly illegal according to European Commission laws, but the Finnish state also encourages gambling with plenty of advertising on television, radio and in the press.

According to the telephone survey, approximately 125,000 people had played online poker, which is 45,000 players more than indicated by a 2006 estimate commissioned by RAY (Finland's Slot Machine Association), one of the three state-owned betting monopolies, so whose figures are we to believe? Currently RAY is the only one legally permitted to offer online poker, but thankfully they have yet to pursue this source of income. Note that word 'income' because it is the underlying objective of all casinos, bookmakers and gaming sites, and they wouldn't be in business if it wasn't profitable for them.

In the article Ilkka Juva, the communication director of the Finnish lottery company Veikkaus, states that up to two-thirds of the money spent on foreign online poker could be redirected to Finns, if Finland provided domestic online poker. I only hope that Finland's Ministry of Social Affairs and Health discusses the potential damage to the population with the Ministry of Culture before any bill on betting law reform is passed, but I wouldn't bet on it.

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Emanuel Paparella2008-04-19 12:54:41
Some musings on this fascinating subject:

Gambling goes on not only in Las Vegas but on Wall Street too and reflects not only greed but the simpleminded belief that money will solve all of one's problems. Somebody once quipped that it is a tax that the smart inpose on the stupid, and he might have had a point. But there is a deeper insight; that of Dostoyevsky who said that if we were to place man in a wholly determined universe he would blow it up to prove that he was free. He was a gambler and knew quite well that the addiction did not make him free but a slave. On the other hand, his constant lack of money drove him to write his novels by which he made a living. Life is a paradox!

Clint2008-04-19 14:45:11
It's a big issue here in the UK as well with Premier Brown encouraging cities to gamble in their bids to be the home of the first 'Super Casino', announcing the winner and then back-tracking due to a public revolt. Now in true Blair style he is trying to bring in casinos by the back door with loads of smaller ones. My bet is that he succeeds!

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