The Puritans Are Backing a Loser, This Country Is Run by Gamblers

The Mail on Sunday (London, England), December 28, 2003 | Go to article overview

The Puritans Are Backing a Loser, This Country Is Run by Gamblers


Byline: PETER DOBBIE

THE Archbishop of Canterbury has been sounding off about the casino culture that threatens to envelop the country. He has deep reservations about the relaxation of the gaming laws which will lead the way to High Street casinos opening 24 hours a day.

The young, already saddled with repaying university fees well into adulthood, will leave fulltime education equally in hock to the bookies.

In a society where to be heavily in debt is seen as the norm, Dr Rowan Williams paints a grim picture of a generation hooked on the spin of the roulette wheel and the turn of a card.

Is he right to be so worried?

Undoubtedly yes.

Is there much we can do about it? Sadly, no.

Gambling may still be a sin in the eyes of a few purists. But these days you can bet on anything that moves and quite a lot that does not.

The recent downturn in the health of the Pope led to a flutter of speculation on his successor.

Surely, thought I, the bookmakers will not wager on this until the old boy is cold.

I telephoned an Irish bet layer who, over a number of years, has laid claim to the child benefit.

An operator gave her name and asked for an account number.

'How can I help?' 'Are you betting on the new Pope?' I asked. 'I've not heard of that one,' she answered. 'It would not be in the greatest of taste now.' I felt a little shamefaced at this.

She put me on hold for a minute before confirming that indeed she had details on a good dozen or so high-hats who were in the running. 'Jesus, folk will bet on anything,' she observed.

I had a small wager on the German candidate who, at 20-1, is according to my inside sources (no, not Him) the one that all the cute Cardinals are on.

The point is, that in questioning the culture of free-for-all gambling Dr Williams is wasting his breath.

Giving the gaming bosses freedom to open more establishments for longer is inevitable in a society where deregulation of behaviour is rife both economically and morally.

The banks, building societies and credit card companies are allowed to offer us loans and mortgages, quite often couched in language that, if not guilty of direct untruths, misleads the customer or fails to spell out the consequence of default.

Even when this was recently condemned by Ministers and financial experts, they simply shrugged. …

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