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Bingo, betting and Corbyn

Jeremy Corbyn needs some strong, long term narratives tohelp change the perception that he is a bumbler, a wreck of a man who deserves pity, not high office.

Those narratives need to be capable of being written into legislative action, and campaigns, not just being nice stories for the people who already admire him.

Gambling would be a good place to start.

It would also be a good place to put clear blue water between Corbynism and Blairism.

Labour has always had an uncomfortable relatonship with gambling, not least because,if the Cof E was the Tory Party at prayer, Labour, to quote Wilson, owed as much to Methodism as Marxism and Methodists were never keen on any kind of gambling.

One of the compromises Labour made was to acceptforms of gambling that were mutual in their structure, and incorruptible intheir play. Bingo for instance. The reason why bingo was popular in the armed forces

Soldiers playing bingo

was because it was risk free gambling; free, that is from the risk of disputes, cheating and fraud. That’s because bingo, in its pure form, has a pot of money put in by all of the players, which must be won by one of the players. Even if there are lesser prizes within the game, for lines or corners, the prize money for them would be apportioned according to a  formula. Commercial bingo, when it was permitted, worked to the same formula, with rules for how much of the pot the proprietor of the house could take as their profit.

Labour liked the Tote for the same reason; as a British form of parimutuel betting it was more innocent, and more honest, than the dishonest world of bookmaking.

Why does Jeremy Corbyn need to be reminded of this? Bluntly, every innovation of gambling away from the mutual world of bingo and the Tote is designed for one reason only; to make sure that more money sticks with the game’s proprietors, so that a lower share of the pot goes back to the players.

What’sthe difference between a European and an American roulette wheel?

The European wheel has a 0, coloured white, which means that on that spin, all the money staked is lost. Over time, that 0 guarantees the house margin. An American wheel has a 0 and a 00, on both of which all bets are lost. That innovation, the double zero, effectively doubles the house margin. That’s just one example.

Betting,as in classic British betting on horse racing, is a game where bookmakers use their superior knowledge of how much money has been wagered to manage the price at which they will settle bets, which, in many cases,is not the same as the price advertised when the bet was placed. We’ve written here, before, about the bookmaker’s fallacy; the prices offered do not reflect which horse the bookmaker thinks will win (erroneously called the favourite) but the prices the bookmaker needs to offer to profitably settle all the winning bets.

Every refinement of gambling, every innovation, works one way. The proprietor gets to keep more money. The idea of fairness that underpins bingo, the ideas of mutuality, are anathema to the spivs who seek to make their fortune from owning gambling operations. In this era of fixed odds machines in betting shops, described by some as the crack cocaine of gambling, Labour could profitably ask whether, as a nation, we have gone too far with gambling liberalization, and should start policing gambling not just form the point of view of the age, sobriety and competence of the players, but also the very rules of the games themselves.

For Corbyn it’s a winning opportunity to talk not just about morality, fairness and the spiv economy, but also some very comforting,and very traditional images of Englishness. It also opens the door for those on the right of Labour to explore the debate that the welfare state was conceived as a game of bingo, in which players shared out what had been put in, but on the basis of need not chance. Again, it would provide opportunities to point out that the welfare problem, arguably,is not that our benefits are too generous, but that the alck of a European approach to benefits and to pooling the costs throws up the kind of inequalities that so irk middle England.Why shouldn’t we pool, on a Europen basis, the cost of subsidizing workers in the same way as we subsidize farmers?

From small acorns can bigideas grow; Corbyn should take a punt on gambling.


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This entry was posted on May 10, 2016 by in Uncategorized.

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