Here goes the intellectual and practical dilemma people face all over the world: should we ban harmful activities? The answer, unfortunately, isn’t as black and white as yes or no. If it was, we wouldn’t be writing a whole post about it. This is an ancient problem we have been trying to solve for not one but many thousands of years. Long before they built the first casino, people still gambled with simple bets such as on games as dice or horse racing.
The Risk Of Addiction
An activity such as gambling may be a harmless one when practiced in good spirits and moderation, but there is a reason it’s frowned upon by the majority. The nature of this high-risk high-reward chase stops people from thinking clearly. Many people didn’t know that they would get addicted, but at some point, they can’t stop anymore, and gambling takes a huge toll on their lives, such as financial troubles (and often going into debt), family backlash, and work-related problems.
It is not a modern illness that’s affecting society. Since there was written history, we know that a certain percentage of the population is heavily inclined towards addiction of all kinds, be it excessive gambling, substances such as drugs and spirits, and even normal parts of our lives such as food or playing video games.
A Bright Future?
The difference is, we now have immense knowledge to help us get better. Science and medicine are unbelievably advancing every year in the 21st century, and even before it was on a rapid rise for over two hundred years. The impact is already seen with many of the previous fatal diseases eradicated, such as polio, and cancer is now actually manageable in over 80% of cases if detected early enough.
These are enormous achievements. Now, we are tackling mental health issues such as depression or addiction with great success. Cognitive-behavioral therapy is the first-line treatment, and it does work and helps millions of people all around the world. And while we now know how to help gamblers and addicts way better, the issue remains. Wouldn’t we have to face these issues if a total ban was put on the matter?
Doubting Legal Enforcements
Banning an activity doesn’t mean people will stop doing it. The same goes for substances, as Prohibition in the US began roughly a hundred years ago, and lasted for only a decade with little to no success. On the contrary, statistics show that it increased the interest in alcoholic beverages greatly, as they were then seen as “immoral pleasure”. It’s a pretty common phenomenon in psychology, and it’s known as the forbidden fruit effect. It looks something like this: when an item becomes forbidden, it’s seen as a more attractive pursuit.
Actually, looking at the data we have will tell you the opposite reasoning: the more accessible an activity such as gambling is, the less prevalent the activity is amongst the population. A friend of mine from Japan, Akio, shared some shocking information with me. He works in an addiction rehabilitation center, and he is frequently treating gamblers gone bad.
As he is a clinical psychologist, he gets to have the deepest conversations possible with the afflicted individuals. And even though gambling is illegal in the Far East country, it is still easily accessible either through the internet or by traveling a few hours on a plane. He sent me a post on a popular Japanese website called casinotabi.com and it’s on resources like these gamblers can find all the information they need. And when somebody has a craving for an addict, they will go to unbelievable lengths of effort to fulfill their “desire”. What good do we do by sending the gamblers to do their deed in another country?
A Better Way
We shouldn’t enable gambling. This is not something to take lightly, and we must keep a keen, watchful set of eyes on it. And we should use measures that are proven to work and not enforce regulations despite all the evidence telling us it’s not helping at all. You don’t eradicate a notion so deeply ingrained in society, by a few simple words put into legal pads of paper.
Instead, we should take responsibility and work on it together, to improve our communities, integrate those who need help the most into them, and make the way back as accessible as possible. Many people make mistakes in life, and punishing them only works so far. There will always be that person who will make poor decisions. Let’s help them make good ones. Here is how YOU can help.