Don’t bet on it

There is a nasty little puritanical streak strutting angrily inside me. It’s not very big and it doesn’t get much exercise, but sometimes it pushes its way to the front and demands to be heard, which is embarrassing. The rest of me is mostly tolerant and in favour of freedom of choice and freedom of everything else. It doesn’t like governments or moralists or anyone telling us what to do and what not to do.  

The puritanical streak thinks this is wimpish. It likes nothing better than telling other people what they can and can’t do. A proper little martinet, in fact. It is currently in a state of agitation about its main bête noire: gambling. So, please excuse me if I now indulge it, in the hope it will then keep quiet for a while. This week, the blog is being written by my puritanical streak. Not by me.

Gambling is the most pointless human activity yet invented. In return for a frisson of excitement that lasts a few seconds, you lose your money. Yes you do. Don’t start telling me you don’t, or that you might not in the future. You do. Almost any other kick is cheaper, more rewarding and longer-lasting. This one is idiotic.

If you can afford to lose your money, there are many better ways to lose it. If you can’t, you are wrecking your own life and the lives of those who depend on you. Gambling is gratuitously self-destructive.

It is also highly addictive. That’s why so many people do it. They are hooked on something that drains their pockets for nothing. That’s how betting companies flourish. That’s why they spend so much of what was once your money persuading you to lose even more of it.

Stop it. Ban it. The whole lot. Not just the advertising. Not just the high-drain high street machines. The entire industry. Line the senior executives up against a wall and shoot them. Including Ray Winstone. Especially Ray Winstone.

I’m sorry, puritanical streak. I must interrupt your blog. I can’t have you advocating mass murder in public. Or even in private. Would you tone down your demands a little? No. I thought not. On you go, then. If you must.

What about alcohol? I hear you say. Is that not equally addictive, equally destructive, equally wasteful in every respect? We might as well all join the temperance movement. In fact, let’s do it. Right now.

That’s enough. The puritanical streak has gone too far and has been sent to its room. I am not joining the temperance movement. And I don’t think, for all its faults, that drinking is anything like as pointless or destructive an activity as gambling. Most people do drink responsibly, most of the time. Few people blow hundreds of pounds they haven’t got on alcohol, and get nothing in return.

But gambling is indeed an evil. It certainly shouldn’t be encouraged, which means it shouldn’t be advertised. The amounts that can be casually wagered and lost should be curbed. Perhaps, in due course, the industry can be taxed out of existence. In the meantime, we could do with a new Hogarth to dramatise its pernicious effects. My puritanical streak can apply for the job.