The Essence of Morality in Gambling

As for gambling - most people do believe that existing anti-gambling laws are not only futile, but mistaken in basic philosophy.

People believe in moral law. Morality has its objective norm. But some do not believe that gambling is a violation of the moral law.

Certainly, the double standard that makes a bet at a race track morally and legally superior to one placed on a street corner is dubious, to say the least.

Even if we grant that gambling is immoral, that it is a violation of the moral law, we cannot help but question the wisdom of dealing with the problem by criminal or prohibitory legislation.

In a policy trial the prosecutor sought to discredit a defense witness. To a question as to whether she ever played policy, the witness replied with commendable frankness: 'Why, sure, man; everyone in this area play the numbers.'

The policy racket is reputed to be a billion dollar a year business. It has been estimated that the American public spends 20 billion dollars a year - most of it illegally - on horse races, football pools, slot machines, and the policy game.

Some decry Las Vegas, but most believe in the legalization of gambling under public control. Bring gambling out in the open. Give the public a chance to satisfy its desire.

Then, by appropriate regulatory legislation, extend it in one direction or another, or confine it, as developments warrant.

The policy of strict enforcement of gambling laws does not reflect sympathy with existing laws, but rather an attempt to cleanse the court of involvement in corruption and to bring the merits of these laws under broader public scrutiny, paving the way to their ultimate repeal.

In England, too, there is a long history of frustrated gambling legislation, dating back to the reign of King Henry VIII, in 1541.

But even more than in the United States, the law in England has never conformed to the dictates of society and has not succeeded in changing a traditionally tolerant attitude toward gamblers.

Betting has always enjoyed a kind of social status in British society. Britain's new Betting and Gaming Bill will permit across-the-counter cash bets on horses in licensed shops.

These are shops in which racing information and odds will be posted on blackboards but in which music, television, and drinking will be prohibited as enticements to loitering.

The vote for the bill in the House of Commons was 311 to 49. The decisiveness of the vote is an indication of the public acceptance of gambling in England.

In the course of the debate in the House of Commons, J. Chester Ede, a former Labor home secretary, brought an appropriate response when he declared: 'I don't think gambling is a sin. I don't consider it as a crime. I believe it is a folly - and I speak from experience.'