In England, the results of horse races and football matches are announced in special editions of the evening papers and are regularly broadcast by radio and television.
Ticking off one’s successes or failures is frequently accompanied by the increase in heartbeat, involuntary sweating and other vaso-muscular changes which also accompany the act of love.
Although it certainly cannot be demonstrated to interpret continuous petty betting as a sign of an unsatisfactory sex life.
Another component of addictive petty betting is, perhaps, the fact that for many British children money is a token of love.
Often, British children do not earn their allowance, as do many Americans, by performing chores suitable to their years and getting paid for them.
They are given weekly pocket money by their parents (the withholding of pocket money is one of the most usual punishments for childhood misdemeanors) and occasional ‘tips’ by other adults.
Money, in the experience of many British children, is therefore for ‘fun’ – for self-indulgence after the necessities of life have been attended to.
In the great majority of cases, one would hazard that the money used for petty gambling is ‘fun’ money, and that a win is the equivalent of an unexpected ‘tip’ from a benevolent uncle.
But even though the average British gambler plays only with a few shillings a week, they add up to very big business indeed for the bookmakers and pool promoters who cater to the national passion.
And another beneficiary is the British General Post Office, for stakes in the football pools have to be placed in money orders, obtainable only from branch post offices, and sent by mail.
It may be only coincidence, for the figures are impossible to disentangle from the published accounts.
However, there is actually a connection between the business brought to the Post Office by gamblers and the undoubted fact that Britain is one of the very few countries in the Western world where mail delivery is as rapid and as frequent as it was a generation ago.
Again, it may be only coincidence, but when the weather prevented football matches from being played in the early months of 1963, the British Broadcasting Corporation (which is rather closely associated with the Postmaster General) arranged for ‘notional’ matches to be decided on television by experts and celebrities.
Bets were placed as usual, and winnings paid out, so that the flow of postal money orders and mailed entries never dried up.
British gambling is not only a source of big business, but also of big crime. The Betting Act did away in great part with the petty crimes of street betting.