Paternalism and the Pokies: Unjustified State Interference or Justifiable Intervention?

Prior Jonson, Elizabeth; Lindorff, Margaret; McGuire, Linda
October 2012
Journal of Business Ethics;Oct2012, Vol. 110 Issue 3, p259
Academic Journal
The Australian Productivity Commission and a Joint Select Committee on Gambling Reform have recommended implementation of a mandatory pre-commitment system for electronic gambling. Organizations associated with the gambling industry have protested that such interventions reduce individual rights, and will cause a reduction in revenue which will cost jobs and reduce gaming venue support for local communities. This article is not concerned with the design details or the evidence base of the proposed scheme, but rather with the fundamental criticism that a mandatory pre-commitment policy is an unacceptable interference with the liberty of the individual, and of organizations. It is argued that the concept of paternalism is a useful lens with which to study the interactions between business and society on this issue. It is contended that the benefits of a pre-commitment system to problem gamblers and society are socially and economically significant, and the cost to recreational gamblers, particularly the cost in terms of interference with the liberty of the individual, is minimal. Pre-commitment also requires gambling businesses to act in a more socially responsible manner. It is concluded that the proposed legislation constitutes a paternalistic intervention by government on the interaction between business and society, and that this is justified.


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