The Addict's Veto

Why should problem gamblers ruin online betting for everyone?

Annie Duke, who testified at a recent House Judiciary Committee hearing on Internet gambling, is not a typical poker player. A professional for 13 years, she is the biggest female money winner in the history of tournament poker.

Gregory J. Hogan Jr. is not a typical poker player either. As his father, the pastor of the First Baptist Church in Barberton, Ohio, explained at a House Financial Services Committee hearing last summer, "Gregory Jr. is currently in prison for a robbery he committed to feed his online gambling addiction."

While Annie Duke recognizes that most Americans who play poker do it for fun, not for a living, Pastor Hogan tends to overgeneralize from his son's equally extreme experience with the game, which involved losing hundreds of dollars a day while playing 12 hours at a time. Hogan demands an addict's veto over Internet gambling: Because his son robbed a bank, he thinks, no one should be allowed to play poker online.

"I oppose any effort to legalize or even give credibility to Internet gambling," Hogan said. He called last year's passage of the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act, which effectively requires American financial institutions to shun transactions related to online wagers, "an answer to my prayers that other families would not have to suffer as my family has."

Hogan's argument is a fine illustration of prohibitionist logic, which says anything that can be done to excess should be illegal. But as Duke noted, "If the government is going to ban every activity that can lead to harmful compulsion, the government is going to have to ban nearly every activity. Shopping, day trading, sex, [eating] chocolate, even drinking water—these and myriad other activities, most of which are part of everyday life, have been linked to harmful compulsions."

According to a survey reported in the October 2006 American Journal of Psychiatry, about 6 percent of shoppers experience "compulsive buying." Data from the federal government indicate that the rate of alcohol abuse or dependence among past-year drinkers is something like 13 percent.

By comparison, a 2007 government-sponsored survey in the U.K., where Internet wagering is legal, found that 6 percent of people who had placed sports bets online and 7.4 percent of people who had placed other kinds of online bets in the previous year qualified as "problem gamblers" based on American Psychiatric Association criteria. That does not mean they were robbing banks; it means they acknowledged at least three of 10 gambling-related problems, such as "chasing losses," "a preoccupation with gambling," "a need to gamble with increasing amounts of money," and "being restless or irritable when trying to stop gambling."

The prevalence of problem gambling among all past-year gamblers (excluding lottery ticket buyers) was 1.3 percent. Does that mean "gambling online is several times more addictive" than other forms of gambling, as Thomas McClusky of the Family Research Council claimed at the House Judiciary Committee hearing?

Not necessarily. It could simply be that people who are inclined to gamble heavily are especially attracted to online gambling. Notably, the overall rate of problem gambling in the U.K. remained unchanged between 1999 and 2007, despite the rise (and legalization) of Internet wagering.

In any case, it's plain that one cannot safely draw any conclusions about the usual experience of online gamblers from the story of the minister's son who robbed a bank to support his poker habit. According to Duke, the average online poker player spends about $10 a week, in exchange for which he has some fun and sharpens his skills.

"For the majority of Americans, playing poker is a hobby," Duke told the House Judiciary Committee. "They should have a right to choose how to spend their discretionary income, whether it be on poker or anything else." They do not expect to become poker champions, and they should not be treated like bank robbers.

© Copyright 2007 by Creators Syndicate Inc.

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  • Laws a mercy, Miss Scarlett!||

    laws to punish people who can control their habits

    Laws don't punish people who can control their habits. Schmucks punish people who can control their habits.

  • BakedPenguin||

    Maybe they should outlaw crappy parents. I get the impression the Honorable Reverend Gregory J. Hogan falls into that category.

  • BakedPenguin||

    "Gregory Jr. is currently in prison for a robbery he committed to feed his online gambling addiction."



    I'm not sure what his problem is. Since he believes gambling should be illegal, his son would be in prison either way.

  • US Gaming Industry||

    Internet gambling is the Crack Cocaine of gambling.Ask Ron Bailey, or any other reputable science journalist. Much as adding a base to cocaine hcl turns it into a more powerful and addictive form of cocaine, adding internet to gambling produces a much more dangerous and instantly addictive form. These aren't the penny ante poker games of our fathers and grandfathers but a new pure form of poker that provides a more intense rush to the addict.

    There are few recreational players as this new form of gambling is so addictive typical players are transformed into problem gamblers merely by searching for internet poker sites.

  • US Gaming Industry||

    The internet gambler can't play responsibly.
    Internet and gambling combine to form a more pure and deadly form of highly-addictive gambling.

    Users immediately begin to ignore important responsibilities of work,family, state lottery ticket purchases and trips to legitimate licensed casinos.

    Internet gambling robs people of their free will, children of an education and young girls of their chastity. Studies show an unknown amount of internet gambling is controlled by terrorists and provides funding for future attacks on our families.

  • ||

    Rev. Hogan is using the same logic that underlies every prohibition. It's always (drugs, gambling, alcohol, porn) that made their otherwise perfect loved one into a monster. The possibility of anyone being selfish or self destructive never comes is never a consideration.

    When I think about it, all the people who wound up addicted to the point of being destructive were pretty messed up before they found their vice of choice.

  • ||

    I would stop short of calling the rev. a crappy parent. I don't have a great deal of respect for his intellect (admittedly he is emotional about this issue) but children will do as they wish despite the inputs.

    Freedom can be a messy thing, but show me a better alternative? I maintain that you can't.

    Mr. Hogan made his choices, all his choices. The truism that with freedom comes responsibility especially applies here. No ham-handed government intrusion (solution) is going to solve these very precise personal individual problems.

    The longer we allow the government to attempt to protect us from ourselves the longer it will be before individuals begin to take responsibility for their own actions.

  • CoC||

    The prevalence of problem gambling among all past-year gamblers (excluding lottery ticket buyers) was 1.3 percent

    Why exclude the lottery?

    Coc

  • jimmydageek||

    Yeah. Why exclude lotto?

    One of my first jobs was at a convenience store that sold lotto and scratch-offs. There are definitely "addicts" when it comes to those things. One guy would come in about three times a week and buy $50 worth of scratch-offs each time. Unless he was cashing in the tickets someplace else, I don't recall him ever winning enough to come close to breaking even. Another guy would do the same with the pick-3 lotto game.

  • robc||

    These aren't the penny ante poker games of our fathers and grandfathers

    This is true. At the micro-limits some sites offer, the ante is even smaller.

  • Episiarch||

    I would stop short of calling the rev. a crappy parent.

    I wouldn't. His kid developed a problem, and instead of dealing with it within the family, he wants Big Mommy Government to step in and deal with it--for everybody. People who are shitty parents always seek an external source to blame when their children go awry.

    Their desperate flailing to remove blame from themselves inevitably ends up placing the blame on an easy target, and their focus on that target becomes laser-like, as this is their way out from having to take responsibility.

  • ||

    Lotteries are for the children and are run by our trustworthy government overlords--they aren't gambling.

  • ||

    As the Rev. needs to place blame where blame is due.. The DEVIL MADE HIM DO IT!!!

    Typical BS someone can't handle themselves so everyone must be forced to change even though it is not a problem for them.

    I am just gonna take a wild guess that the Rev is your typical hypocrit bible thumper who was given the word by god to tell us all how to live.

  • Fluffy||

    We need Dan T to show up and troll this thread.

    The prohibition argument being offered here is one of the most perfect examples of collectivism in law I can imagine:

    A consequentialist argument is put forth which says that gambling must be illegal because it leads to bad consequences, as for the Reverend's son. When the people advancing this argument are asked to account for all the people who don't face bad consequences of that kind, the response is crickets. I thought for a long time that the "crickets" response was evidence of bad faith, but it has dawned on me that it's not. The crickets are there because to a collectivist, the people who don't suffer bad consequences don't matter and talking about them is not a counterargument that needs to be addressed. The people who can gamble, enjoy it, and not suffer bad consequences will just have to give up their fun to protect the people who are fuckups.

    As I have pointed out elsewhere, this is like saying that because peanuts poison some people, no one should be allowed to eat them. It's not even merely analogous to such an argument; it's exactly the same as such an argument. But the absurdity of it falls on deaf ears, because while you are allowed to expect to be free to eat peanuts, even if other people suffer bad consequences when THEY eat them, you are NOT allowed to expect to be free to gamble, because...

    Actually, there is no because.

  • robc||

    Thanks Fluffy, great analysis. You need to frame that middle paragraph.

  • dbust1||

    I wonder if the Right Reverend Hogan would be willing to preach, from the pulpit, that those in his congregation who have a gambling or other compulsion leading to financial woes should forgo tithes and offerings in favor of addressing their financial woes. Essentially, would he be willing to put his money where his mouth is? I think not.

  • ||

    My Dan T. attempt,

    The cost to society of allowing internet gambling is much higher than the cost to society of banning it.

  • ||

    Well played, John-David. You could swap out "internet gambling" for anything someone wants banned, and it will still work.

  • ||

    The cost to society of allowing internet gambling is much higher than the cost to society of banning it.

    Oh, you can do better than that in parroting Dan T.
    How about: "duhhhhhh, Matt Damon."

  • LarryA||

    What Fluffy said, plus:

    The people who can gamble, enjoy it, and not suffer bad consequences will just have to give up their fun to protect the people who are fuckups.

    Of course whatever hobby the former gamblers take up will come with its own fuckups, who will breed their own champions, who will ban that hobby and send the former gamblers and now former whatevers off to find another pastime which will come with its own fuckups etc. ad nauseum.

    As his father, the pastor of the First Baptist Church in Barberton, Ohio, explained at a House Financial Services Committee hearing last summer, "Gregory Jr. is currently in prison for a robbery he committed to feed his online gambling addiction."

    Sounds like a typical PK.

    There being no connection between addiction and raising the child in a church that preaches that gambling is a terribly alluring sin and must be prohibited to protect tender young minds, rather than letting kids play church bingo and learn that the house cut insures that gambling is an amusing way to empty your wallet. Prohibition is so much more educational than experience.

    Rather than trying to regulate the World Wide Web, wouldn't it be easier to make bank robbery impossible by shutting down all the U.S. banks? Oh, wait: (Hogan) called last year's passage of the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act, which effectively requires American financial institutions to shun transactions related to online wagers, "an answer to my prayers that other families would not have to suffer as my family has."

    That'll teach those damn banks to lure his son into robbery.

  • Paul||

    And the drug war expands exponentially.

    Perhaps, since Addiction is a Disease(tm), then the FDA should regulate gambling?

  • ||

    Why the lottery is excluded:

    "Nationwide, according to the last National Gambling Impact Commission study, in 1999, 5% of lottery players are responsible for 50% of sales. Families making $50-to-100,000 a year spend, on average $200 a year on lottery tickets, while families making less than $25-thousand dollars spend $600, or three times as much." (http://www.cbsnews.com/blogs/2007/10/07/primarysource/entry3340295.shtml)

    It's pretty simple, the state is actively working to keep the poor poor and they'd rather not have the poor understand that the lotteries are just a "stupid tax".

    I'm a bit baffled by Pastor Hogan. One of the underlying tenets of Christianity is the concept of free will. You have the choice to make either good or bad decisions and you must bear the consequences of those choices. However, Pastor Hogan is like all the preachers and imams who run around banning stuff that their religion or beliefs forbid - they're such lousy teachers that they can't properly instruct their flocks. Which, of course, brings us to the million dollar question: who's stronger in their faith, the one who has resisted temptation or the one who's never been tempted? Obviously Pastor Hogan recognizes his inadequacies and believes that one must never be tempted.

  • robc||

    One of the underlying tenets of Christianity is the concept of free will.

    One of the underlying tenets of Christianity is the concept of predestination.

    Both are equally true (also known as false).

    With the exception of me (I accept both), Christians divide on that issue.

  • utilitarian||

    The cost to society of allowing internet gambling is much higher than the cost to society of banning it.

    Well played, John-David. You could swap out "internet gambling" for anything someone wants banned, and it will still work.


    A cost benefit analysis of this type is the only basis for any valid policy decision.

    It requires accurate empirical data to implement.

    Libertarian thinking does not require this empirical data. First principles are used instead to rationalize a policy position.

  • ||

    utilitarian,

    I'm going to play along. It's quite easy to see, from this one anecdote, that people can be driven to commit robberies because of online gambling. That is a cost to society. It's doubtful at best that former online gamblers would be driven to commit robbery if their hobby was made illegal.

  • ||

    This is just another case of "one person ruining it for everyone." Do you remember when you first heard that saying? If you said grade school you get a gold star. That's what adults say to control children. "Don't ruin it for everyone by being an idiot." Well, we are a nation full of idiots after all. But the Catch 22 is that the paternals are also idiots for trying a strategy that never works (did you care that being an idiot would ruin it for you when you were a kid?)

  • ||

    I would stop short of calling the rev. a crappy parent.

    Well, I won't stop short of nominating this guy for an episode of YaFM.

    Freedom does lead some people to making stupid decisions and do some stupid shit, I've done my fair share myself.

    This kind of guy is what I like to think of as a "communist parent". Communism maintains that we should all be equal. Unfortunately, the only way to do that is have everyone be poor and ignorant because we can't all be rich and intelligent :)

    We can't all be good parents, but if we have the government help us, we can all be as stupid as this guy's son was.

  • utilitarian||

    John-David,

    You haven't quantified the cost or the benefit.

    What first principles can you use to rationalize a ban/not banning?

  • ||

    Some people have gone on killing sprees, jumped out skyscraper windows, or have been brought to ruin by legal gambling on business and investment ventures that didn't pan out. But far more people have prospered by the same method. What's the real goal of the anti-gambling movement?

  • قبلة الوداع||

    thank u

  • قبلة الوداع||

    thank u

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