… on the moral balance sheet can she truly register as good?
This is immediately after the article has set out her good deeds.
Unlike tax-avoiding knights Philip Green or Lewis Hamilton, Coates a CBE, pays millions to the exchequer. Most online gambling firms scarper offshore but her firm Bet365 is mainly domiciled here.
In post-industrial Stoke, she is revered for employing thousands of locals, raising the area’s median wage above central Manchester’s, paying workers through lockdown, refusing furlough cash. Her charitable foundation could do more than donate to arts projects and Alzheimer’s research if it didn’t sit on most of its £385 million reserves; she endowed the local hospital with £10 million and keeps Stoke City FC afloat; she paid for a statue of Arnold Bennett, Staffordshire’s literary son. She adopted four children.
So – how can anyone justify vilifying this patron saint of the community?
She owns an online gambling firm and we are treated to stories of gambling addiction and the like.
Does Coates avoid scrutiny because she’s naturally reserved or because the inevitable questions are too hard? Like, how do you feel about making billions by feeding the addiction of the poor? Or, does it concern you that as Bet365’s profits soared in lockdown the number of problem gamblers referred for treatment has increased fivefold, while those feeling suicidal have quadrupled?
Does she think about her key customers, the 5 per cent who contribute 60 per cent of revenue, the so-called VIPs who are in fact just men of mainly ordinary means, shoving their savings, their summer holiday fund, their kids’ school shoe money, into the beeping, flashing abyss of their phone?
Let’s quote Ludwig von Mises:
It is not the fault of the entrepreneurs that the consumers—the people, the common man—prefer liquor to Bibles and detective stories to serious books, and that governments prefer guns to butter. The entrepreneur does not make greater profits in selling “bad” things than in selling “good” things. [Her] profits are the greater the better [she] succeeds in providing the consumers with those things they ask for most intensely.
Definitions of what constitutes ‘problem gambling’ are problematic themselves. Furthermore it was the government response to COVID that contributed to mental health problems not the distractions that people deployed during lockdown.
Here is the real issue the article is driving towards – but many people won’t like the answer:
Perhaps we should just count the money coming into the Treasury, not the broken relationships, lost jobs, shattered lives.
The Pigouvian answer to this question is ‘Yes’.
The suggestion here being that gambling imposes third party costs – negative externalities. Let’s assume for argument sake that this is correct – let’s assume that gambling does impose negative externalities. The correct economic solution to that problem isn’t prohibition, as many would like, but rather taxation. As long as gambling and gambling providers are appropriately taxed – and they are taxed quite heavily – there is no net negative externality.