What’s good for the goose must be good for the web shop

Dear Editor,

Some have elected to use the COVID-19 pandemic as convenient cover to continue their moralizing crusade to have the government tell citizens what social vices are bad.

The issue must never be whether the government approves or disapproves of the consumption of alcohol, cigarettes, games of chance or even extreme “winin’ up” at carnival.

We do have morality laws that ban prostitution, etc., but there are no laws against drinking (without driving), having a go at the lottery or busting a vulgar move on the social media site Tik Tok from the privacy of your home, during lockdown.

The government, in the interest of public health, imposed a curfew with exceptions that allow us to go out and get essential items like food and medicines. Gambling is not essential to sustaining life nor property.

Other retail businesses, like liquor stores, were initially shut down, not because the government disapproved of what they were selling, but rather because the government wanted to stop people gathering in large groups which could potentially spread the virus.

As stores start to reopen, they must have protocols for proper social distancing by customers.

If the ban on business contained in the emergency powers given to the prime minister to fight the pandemic includes any business that can be sustained without direct face-to-face interaction with the public, then the act ought to be amended to accommodate that business, whether we like what they are trading or not.

If the activity was allowed before COVID-19, it should be allowed during COVID-19, if the public health risk is mitigated.

It would seem that if any business can be done 100 percent electronically by computer or cellphone from the safety of home, it should be wagering on games of chance.

While there is little doubt that some people will divert their extremely limited funds earmarked to buy food and medicine into pressing their luck at the numbers house, we must not forget that they probably also did so before the pandemic.

The writer Ian Mabon made an observation that lacked his usual coherence. He moralized instead of presenting a solid argument for why web shops should not be allowed to operate if they can enforce social distancing. That, at the end of the day, is the reason for the emergency powers.

It is the same “irrational exuberance” which has led us into public policies like banning Bahamians from gambling at the supposed “good” casinos where tourists come, some presumably absconding with rent and food money due back home.

Gambling addiction is universal and must be treated with scientific intervention, not moral ones.

Web shop owners have the wherewithal to take their business online.

News reports depicted an array of computer screens hastily and conveniently set up outside in the sun by web shops, just after business trading hours were relaxed recently.

The prime minister’s announcement that his gradual opening up of the economy does not extend to web shops needs to be justified by science, not utopian ethics.

Gambling contributes to a host of unsavory behavior in some people. But so does constant exposure to television violence.

A packet of cigarettes warns that its use can lead to serious health problems, but the government doesn’t police their use by consenting adults.

Why should it now throw a web of protection over those citizens reckless enough to squander their last dollar on a game of chance?

And let’s not pretend that selfsame last dollar isn’t frittered away on a clandestine game of dice during the curfew.

The Graduate

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