GAMBLING: ADDICTION OR VIRTUE?
José Renato Nalini, rectorof Uniregistral, professor of postgraduate studies at Uninove and president of Academia Paulista de Letras (2019-2020) – Sao Paulo’s Academy of Letters-, published a strong opinion column in Estadão newspaper in defense of the legalization of gambling in Brazil. “It is played in Brazil and intensely, whether you allow it or not and it is hypocritical to prohibit yourself on the grounds that it is addictive. The return of the casinos would give dignified occupation to thousands of people at a time when the country is facing insurmountable difficulties,” assures Nalini.
The philosopher Johan Huizinga (1872-1945) wrote the book “Homo Ludens – Gaming as an element of culture”, to say that “homo sapiens” is not so rational and that “homo faber” would not be an exclusively human characteristic. The “faber” also designates a huge group of animals, as ants and bees say.
It suggests that a third function is as important as reasoning and the making of objects: gaming. The notion of game is a distinct and fundamental factor, present in everything that happens in the world. For Huizinga, “it is in gaming and through it that civilization appears and develops.” So much so that he used this conviction to elaborate and deliver his speech as Rector of the University of Leyden and repeated it at conferences to which he was invited in Zurich, Vienna and London. Here, his speech was already called “Gaming as an element of culture”. He asserts that anthropology and the sciences connected to it have paid very little attention to the concept of play and to the fundamental importance of the play factor for civilization.
Gaming is a fact older than culture. It is a significant function, that is, it contains a certain sense. There is something at stake in gaming that transcends trivialities and gives meaning to the action.
Inseparable from the game, the “fun” factor, which seems to resist all logical analysis and interpretation. The essence of the game is an absolutely primary category of life, susceptible to being identified from the animal level itself.
That is why the discussion about the liberation of gambling in Brazil takes on much more comprehensive aspects than remedying the battered economy, which went to the ITU (Intensive Therapy Unit) after the pandemic. It is in the nature of the game to be free, to be an expression of freedom. This does not mean breaking the rules. We all know what the term “rules of the game” means.
Huizinga synthesizes the formal characteristics of the game, conceptualizing it as “free activity, consciously taken as“ non-serious ”and external to the usual life, but at the same time capable of absorbing the player in an intense and total way.” So much so that the whole world plays. Even the Brazilians play a lot.
It is hypocritical to forbid gambling on the grounds that it is addictive. Those who are prone to addiction, indulge in drinking, drugs, sex, politics, or any other addictive activity.
Brazilians travel to gamble in casinos that generate substantial resources for the countries that exploit them. Vegas, as intimates refer to Las Vegas, is a millionaire space, which attracts millionaires, and which testifies to how ingrained the game is in human consciousness.
Ignoring this circumstance is costly for Brazil, which often plunges into obscurantism from which it is not easy to leave. Plato had already detected this playful vocation of the human being. For him, the most certain way of living resembled a game: “… everyone must do their best to live in peace. What, then, is the surest way to live? Life must be lived as a game, playing certain games, making sacrifices, singing, and dancing, so that man can win the favor of the gods and defend himself against his enemies, triumphing in combat.”
It is played in Brazil and intensely, whether you allow it or not. Internet poker attracts millions. Lotteries form huge lines in stors, especially when the prize is accumulated. The game is intrinsic and instinctive to humans. True civilization cannot exist without the playful element. The philosopher Huizinga said that “civilization will always be a game governed by certain rules, and true civilization will always demand the sporting spirit, the ability to fair play. Fair play is simply good faith expressed in playful terms.”
More developed nations have apprehended this and make fortunes from players around the world, especially from countries allegedly defending morals and good customs, although immersed in ethical, social, political, economic and sanitary calamities.
The game itself is not moral or immoral. It is immoral to allow Brazilians to go hungry, to have no housing, no basic sanitation, no education, no health, no comprehensive security and to close their eyes to the paradoxical situation in relation to games.
It is played a lot and in all ways. The urgent need to provide the population in need of continuity in emergency aid would be the trigger to approve the projects to release online or face-to-face gaming, which are sleeping in Parliament. Starting in January, millions of Brazilians will be without the “minimum income” substitute, while millions more – evidently less – will continue to supply the coffers of the countries where the game is legal.
In addition, the return of the casinos would give dignified occupation to thousands of artists, composers, instrumentalists, singers, waiters, chefs, all the discouraged masses that were starved when entertainment was abruptly interrupted by the plague.
Will there be any discernment to conclude that gambling, an inseparable characteristic of the species, should not be seen as an addiction, but as a civic virtue, at a time when the country is facing insurmountable difficulties?
José Renato Nalini
Rector of Uniregistral, professor of postgraduate studies at Uninove and president of Academia Paulista de Letras – 2019-2020