I am indebted to Russell Barnhart, a noted scholar of gambling, resident in New York, for research on the origin of craps. Charles James Fox certainly knew about gambling from the inside, which prompts the hope that in the ranks of New Labour there may also be one or two people who have experience of gambling, as players. Robin Cook, Foreign Secretary, is said to be fond of horse-racing. The wires are somewhat crossed: new legislation is the responsibility of the Home Office, but the National Lottery comes under the Department of Culture, Media and Sport (formerly Heritage), while the Treasury, which funds the Gaming Board separately, in fact rakes in tax from the lottery.
The state of play on gambling in Britain has become so churned up by the enormous success of the lottery that it needs a fresh look. Instead, change is done piecemeal - on betting shops, bingo halls, horse-racing and greyhounds, casinos, and so so on - without an overview. The salient fact is that the public dislikes the way the lottery is being run, while loving the gamble. The Government believes "something should be done". It certainly needs to think the whole thing through.
As for Charles James Fox, did he get an honest roll from the dice? Lord Egremont, recalling the earlier portion of the reign of George III, told Charles's older brother Stephen, also a big loser, that he was convinced there was some unfair play. So there may be something to be said for official regulation.
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