The matter of why is gambling illegal has remained one of the most discussed topics among both gamblers and those opposing it.
In the lines below, we're tackling what appears to be the hottest topic of the gambling world – gambling (il)legality and what makes gambling illegal, overall.
Why is Gambling Illegal: Main Reasons and Concerns
The most common underlying reasons for keeping gambling illegal are, primarily, morality and/or religion, immediately followed by socioeconomic ramifications such as the possibility of gambling addiction, underage gambling, and the individual's safety.
Although major religious scripts do not mention, i.e. deal with gambling itself, they comment on behaviours and emotional states (envy, money obsessions, etc.) that may be the underlying motivation leading certain individuals to gambling. In that sense, these same religions and cultures have taken it upon themselves to treat gambling as sin, and even equate it with crime.
Participating in gambling activities in states where gambling is illegal can lead to time in prison, huge fines, and loss of social status.
Gambling History and the Socioeconomic Aspect
Observing the history of gambling and the general take on it, we are to posit that, in countries where gambling is illegal, it is also considered sinful, immoral and, therefore, inappropriate.
Speaking of socioeconomic implications, the most common reasons behind all what is considered illegal gambling are predominantly concerns about problem gambling expansion, money laundering, underage gambling, and the safety of the individual due to racked up gambling debt.
In that sense, in determining whether to ban gambling, some countries have decided that the only way to prevent decay of their societal mores and avoid the loss of human life is to make gambling illegal.
What is the Modern Take on Gambling Bans?
The modern societies wonder if the gambling illegal aspect, i.e. the outright ban on gambling is the solution societies are looking for. Apparently, most countries where gambling is illegal do not record desired results, which is to protect the individuals against harm caused by gambling. In fact, it is argued that people engaging in gambling activities would be much safer if the proper legal framework were set in place and guaranteed the safety of the individual while encouraging fun.
Nevertheless, one popular argument is that people will continue to find ways to gamble regardless of gambling being legal or not. The claim goes on to argue that people who want to gamble where gambling is illegal are at an even bigger risk of suffering gambling-related harm as they'll try their luck at shady gambling parlours and/or get involved with criminal organisations to borrow money.
The question of gambling (il)legality, i.e. why is gambling illegal still when claims support the idea that legalised gambling is safer, however, remains open to this day.
States Where Gambling is Illegal (USA)
Under USA federal law, gambling is legal. However, there are many restrictions concerning interstate and online gambling. Within the USA, each state is free to individually regulate their gambling laws or prohibit its practice altogether within its borders.
Presently, the only two states where gambling is illegal are Hawaii and Utah. Other 48 states allow some form of gambling if state-run lotteries are included. Still, casino-style gambling is much less common.
The only states where casino-style gambling is legal state-wide are Nevada and Louisiana. Every other state allowing casino-style gambling restricts it to small geographic areas (e.g. New Jersey, Atlantic City, Tunica, Mississippi).
As gambling, both online and offline, is an important yet tricky topic, it has often found itself a subject of court cases and vast regulations. Even so, to this day, there isn't one law regulating gambling in its whole. In fact, The Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006 (UIGEA) did not expressly prohibit online gambling at all. What it did, however, was outlaw financial transactions concerning online gambling service providers which resulted in several offshore gambling providers shut down their services for US customers.
Other operators, on the other hand, have continued to evade UIGEA and service US customers.
Countries Where Gambling is Illegal (Worldwide)
What is considered illegal gambling in certain countries doesn't necessarily have to be the case for others. This may introduce a dose of confusion for everyone unfamiliar with the gambling laws of the countries they are playing in. This is why it is always advised to inspect the gambling laws and the overall attitude of a country on gambling to understand why gambling is illegal there, and if it is illegal overall to gamble on your territory.
While some countries around the world take quite a relaxed attitude towards gambling, others heavily prohibit it. In some parts of the world, online gambling is banned, and brick-and-mortar casinos are outlawed, essentially due to religious reasons or moral directives.
Countries where gambling is illegal are:
- United Arab Emirates
- North Korea
Most Islamic nations stand united in gambling prohibition due to religious reasons.
Which Gambling and Casino Games are Most Likely to be Made Illegal?
If gambling should be fully banned by governments as it is considered ruinous, crime-fostering, harmful, or immoral, then the first types of casino games that may take the hit are poker games and slots. After all, these two types of casino games are considered the most addictive of all casino games.
The next in line could be other, "less harmful" games, such as baccarat, keno, bingo, and similar.
Finally, the national lottery seems to be the only "exception" to strict gambling laws and regulations as it is still viewed as entertainment rather than gambling. While there is no proof that the lottery causes any less addiction than "regular gambling", its presence in the gambling world – both online and offline – goes in its favour.
If changes in gambling regulations see the light of day anytime soon, lotteries (all forms of it) may be the last ones to be banned.
Why Gambling Should be Illegal vs. Why Gambling Should be Legal: Common Arguments
The matter of why gambling should be illegal or legal poses itself as one of the catchiest topics today, with valid arguments on both ends.
Here are the most common arguments on why gambling should be illegal:
Gambling Is Subject to Fraud
Being the fastest growing industry in the world, legalised gambling can have a corrupting influence on state governments which benefit from the revenue received. Recently, numerous news reports have talked of corruption and fraud in state lotteries, as well as money laundering.
Problem Gambling Increases With the Availability of Gambling Facilities
Legalised gambling, for the most part, means more parlours offering gambling activities which then leads to more addictive and destructive behaviours as well as gambling addiction.
Gambling legislation may even lead to underage problem gambling where legal gambling age isn't fixed or reasonably placed. Some reports say that gambling legislation in various states has become a stimulator of gambling rather than anything else.
The Society Ends up Paying for Problem Gambling
Common are the cases where (compulsive) gamblers fall into debt as a result of their gambling habits; as a result, they end up relying upon the state's welfare or unemployment benefits. The costs are said to reach several billions of dollars per year which ends up being a considerable strain on society.
Possible Mental Health Issues
Gambling addiction impact people's careers, families, and their physical and mental health, often resulting in divorce, bankruptcy, and crimes due to debt. The gamblers will eventually rely on welfare or unemployment benefits, impacting the government, and the costs could reach several billion dollars per year.
Certain Groups May Be More Disadvantaged
Legalised gambling is shown to hurt, and even destroy the poor and disadvantaged much more than people of status. Whereas the rich don't necessarily depend on what they win, the poor do. If gambling were illegal, the gambling parlours would not be able to promote their casino games, lotteries, and other forms of betting as harmless games of chance that may "win you some".
On the other hand, the arguments on why gambling should be legal are:
Reduced or Neutralised Criminal Element
When back in the 1930s prohibition took place, alcohol began being created and distributed by criminals. If a bar wanted to serve alcohol to its customers, they had to get it illegally, which put them in a very unfortunate position. Eventually, those same businesses would end up depending on their illegal sources that wouldn't think twice if they wanted to blackmail them.
The moment alcohol got legalised, bars and other places had legal ways to obtain alcohol, without having to worry about unfair trade conditions.
The same applies to gambling. If gambling were legalised everywhere, shady business people on the outlook to rob people of their funds wouldn't stand a chance, as all of their clientele would go to trusted, legal casinos. With legalisation of gambling, customers are protected and the criminal element reduced or even eliminated.
Legalised Gambling Promotes Freedom of Choice
While some individuals and organisations see gambling as immoral and sinful and call for its prohibition, most modern societies leave this judgement to an individual level. This argument stresses that individuals should be allowed to make their own choices and stand behind them.
For Most People, Gambling Is Just Fun
When talking about why gambling should be illegal, most argue that virtually all people fall victims to gambling which is not the case. In fact, people become victims so rarely that the statistic revolves around 2.6% of problem gamblers in the USA.
That means that over 97% of people who engage in gambling activities do just fine, have fun, and never become victims of gambling.
A Portion of Gambling Earnings Goes Back to the Society
If gambling were fully legalised, each state government would benefit from the revenue received from gambling, increasing total state budget by a portion. At this time, state lotteries seem to be the primary source of these earnings, but other gambling games follow closely behind.
Depending on the state regulation, the predetermined percentage of winnings that ends up in the state's wallet benefits everyone living in that region. So, then - why is gambling illegal when it benefits the society?
Problem Gambling and Mental Health Under Control
Although it may sound paradoxical that problem gambling gets better regulated with gambling legislation, there's actually much sense to it.
Problem gambling usually develops for people who are susceptible to developing an addiction but are rarely ever encouraged to seek help that would aid them in keeping their urges under control. If gambling were legalised, every gambling parlour would be obliged to provide appropriate help to its players and monitor their behaviours to prevent addiction development. Gamblers would know where to go for help and would actively be encouraged to seek it if needed.
With such a dynamic in place, problem gamblers would have control of their actions and avoid falling into money, family or mental health problems.
Gambling legality remains a topic open for discussion until further notice. As different parts of the world have different takes on what is considered illegal gambling, there isn't one definite stance or solution on this matter. On that note, if you are gambling and wish to continue to do so, find reputable online casinos with history and good ratings. Also, if you feel like you may fall victim to gambling, ask for help before it is too late. Good luck!