What Good Does Gambling Do, If Any?
Gambling, in many countries, has been looked upon as being a negative activity to be involved in. Even in those locations where it is completely legal there are stories cropping up of how much of a blight it is on society. Of course, that isn’t helped by the fact that operators within the industry are far too frequently not adhering to the rules of their official licences, making them even less trustworthy than they may have been before. And that just leads to even more negative press on the gambling scene. This is something that has been the case for the UK gambling scene in recent years, with various groups springing up to campaign against how freely people can access betting and gaming products.
But it is also the case that there may be some good that comes from gambling as well. It’s just that we very infrequently hear about the positive side of the industry, because of how scandalous the bad side of things often is. What good does gambling do, if any? We want to take a look at all of the positive outcomes that gambling has brought to the world and put a bit more balance into the debate. We’re not by any means downplaying the fact that various problems have arisen because of it as well, but like many things, it can’t be all bad. Join us for a look at the good side of the gambling industry.
The Boost to the Economy
The countries that provide their residents with legal gambling opportunities will also see their economies bolstered as well. This is because all legal gambling establishments, whether online or offline, have to pay tax in some way. That tax is applied to the revenue that a company brings in through their sports betting, casino games, lottery ticket sales and so on, which is then added to the government coffers. From there, the idea is that the government will spend it on things to continue increasing the country’s economy and other aspects, like education and healthcare.
In the United Kingdom, a total of £2.83 billion in tax reached the treasury for the tax year of 2020 to 2021. The number for the previous period was even more impressive, standing at £3.02 billion. The COVID-19 pandemic did have a lot to do with deflated figures for the 2020-21 period, naturally. Online gambling carries a larger load for the total economy tax funds, with around 38.8% of the income since 2018 coming from that sector.
As it happens, the UK top the list in terms of online gaming popularity, with numbers having steadily risen year after year. An extraordinary £5.6 billion in revenue was recorded in 2018, which outstrips land-based bookmakers, all forms of lotteries, bingo halls, amusement arcades and so on. And with that increase, the UK economy has done much better, as is only natural. More people playing means more revenue means more tax for the economy.
Records show that over 50,000 people were employed in land-based betting shops, with almost 12,000 in bingo halls and 13,000 in land-based casino establishments across the UK. Around 10,000 people were employed in arcades, 1,000 people were working in the lottery sector and 10,000 in remote gaming operations. Plus, around 6,500 technicians were dedicated to servicing and auditing game machines.
That’s a large portion of jobs being owned by people across the country. With 100,000 people in work in these sectors, could it be said the unemployment would be much higher without the legal gambling scene in the UK? Naturally, some were surprised to see that remote gambling workers were so low, considering the large number of online gambling platforms that are available in the United Kingdom. Of course, many casino companies’ staff aren’t actually based within the UK, and instead are hosted in Malta, the Isle of Man, Gibraltar, and so on, despite having UK-based operations.
That’s why the closure of certain high street betting shops before and after the coronavirus pandemic was met with such negativity. Over 460 stores were closed down in 2020 following the surge in online gambling due to the COVID-19 lockdowns and the crackdown on fixed odds betting terminals. Without a doubt, more people were left without a job when those bookies closed their doors for good, and that doesn’t help with unemployment figures. Alas, it could have been much worse if legal betting shops were never made available in the first place.
Leisure and Entertainment
People are always looking for ways to keep themselves entertained when they have spare time. And casinos, sports betting, bingo halls and so on provide this. Various establishments across the country can be visited by avid players, or there is the chance to play games online as an alternative. Even mobile gambling is available, which allows you to enjoy the games you enjoy from any location. Some people play video games in their pastime, others read a book, some people go to the cinema, and there are those who like to spin the reels of a slot machine or two. It all merges into the area of entertainment.
It can also be the reason for a good social meet-up. A group of friends may get together and have a night out at the casino. Or perhaps they’ll go for a meal first and then hit the casino afterwards for some gaming fun. The gambling scene serves as a really nice alternative for many people to get involved in when it comes to entertainment. The same is true of land-based sports betting shops, where you will find punters chatting with one another while placing a few wagers on their favourite sports. Even the staff members in the shops recognise and acknowledge their frequent local visitors, engaging in chat with them. And bingo halls offer exactly the same.
Doubtless, this is another reason why online live dealer casino games are so popular – because of their social aspect. In those games, you get the land-based experience from home whilst being able to chat to others playing at the same table as you via the live chat box. Everyone has their own enjoyable form of entertainment to get involved in, and gambling offers such to some people.
Funding for Sports Through Levies
Back in 2014, the Labour party (which was responsible for the introduction of legal online gambling with the Gambling Act 2005) considered introducing a multimillion-pound levy on all sports betting. The revenue from that would be ploughed back into grassroots sports, and some of the additional funds would be utilised to tackle problem gambling issues. The proposal was described by Harriet Harman, who was operating as shadow culture secretary at the time, alongside Clive Efford, serving as the shadow sports minister.
Despite the fact that this larger levy did not come to fruition, gambling on horse racing was already subject to such a levy. In 2014, £82 million from the scene was returned to the hose racing industry from that levy. A public body was set up for this in 1961 known as the Horserace Betting Levy Board (HBLB), or more commonly the Levy Board.
The Levy Board does not receive any central Government grant-in-aid or National Lottery funding. And it is for this reason that it instead collects a statutory levy from all horse racing business conducted by sportsbooks, and this is distributed so as to improve the horse racing industry and breeds of horses. The advancement of veterinary science and education also benefits from the levy.
In 2021, the levy returned £82 million to the industry, while in 2020 it recorded a total donation of £97 million to the scene.
In a normal year, the largest portion of the levy collected is spent on race prize money. However, it also goes towards the funding for regulation and integrity services, projects for the benefit of the thoroughbred horse, loans to racecourses for capital projects, racing and breeding industry training and education, as well as resources for other activities relating to the industry. Paul Darling OBE currently serves as chair of the Levy Board.
Believe it or not, gambling tourism is a thing, and it has done remarkably well in the United Kingdom in recent times. In 2019, it was discovered that Las Vegas had been hit hard by the recession of home prices, and this not only affected its gambling industry but the employment of thousands that had been working in the sector. Vegas, at that time, became less of an ideal destination for tourists to flock to for gambling purposes.
While Macau managed to pick up a lot of the custom from the fall of Las Vegas, the United Kingdom also benefitted. London and other cities across the country took on a new strategy of not only relying on home gamblers but making their casinos and sports betting facilities ideal for travellers and other tourists as well.
Resort services help with this, with many UK casinos offering multiple services alongside gambling. Back in the early 2000s, most casinos in the country made around 90% of their revenue from the gambling options alone. Yet this is no longer the case, with a big part of this being due to the increase in popularity of online gambling activity. Therefore, at the various resorts, it was time to appeal to tourists.
When tourists visit these brick-and-mortar casinos, they not only get to experience the slot machines and so on but get to experience the nightclubs and restaurants etc. built into the resorts. As a result, additional revenue can be earned by the casinos this way. Over 40% of the revenue garnered by these land-based establishments comes from gambling tourists visiting the resorts. UK casinos will also frequently provide enjoyable offers like free drinks when a person is playing on slot machines or blackjack tables and so on. This keeps them more interested in continuing to gamble and have a good time. And it keeps the tourism industry on top.
A Unique Insight into Markets
Another great thing that gambling does is provide people with insights into various markets. It is not uncommon for online sportsbooks to offer wagering on special markets, like the U.S. Presidential Election, Brexit or the next UK Prime Minister, for example. Through looking at the odds on these different candidates, bettors can get an insight into who is more likely to win the elections. It’s not all about politics, though.
Some sportsbooks also offer odds on who will win the next Best Actress Oscar, who will win the next series of Big Brother, who will play the next James Bond, and other entertaining options. In this respect, people not only get to place their own wager, should they wish, but they can see who the majority are turning their attention to with the odds provided. This could be considered as another form of entertainment attached to engaging in sports betting.
One final area to look at is the real estate scene, because, of course, land-based casinos, bingo halls and so on are held within physical buildings. And arcade amusements and sports betting shops and so on are a part of this, too. Many people would question whether owning a physical casino is beneficial today, considering the impact that the online gaming scene has had on the land-based world. But there is still an advantage to take from it, because these casinos have adapted by offering food, drinks, nightclubs and so on to cater to guests.
Large casinos are usually built as vast resorts, and they often cover scores of land. Often, the property usage is split into three parts – gaming, hotel and commercial uses. The hotel houses guests for varying amounts of time, and gaming provides players with games of chance. Commercial areas within these establishments have almost unlimited possibilities attributed to them. Entertainment shows, five-star restaurants, top-quality nightclubs and so on exist in these areas. Even shopping centres are attached to casinos and owned by the same person who possesses the casino itself.
Even the offices that online casinos utilise for their customer support, technical team and so on, affect the real estate industry. They all need to be rented in some way or another, meaning that the real estate scene of the UK gets an influx of money to keep it going.