Pub Politics: Government Casino Trips

Updated: Aug 16, 2020

By Oliver James Pike

(Part of the Pub Politics Series) - All Policy Ideas Were Conceived in the Pub: Do not Take Them Seriously

The government likes spending money. Without it, it can't do much. However, it must be conscious of inconvenient things like the taxpayer and the economy. In recent times this has meant either crippling austerity or outrageous taxation. What if there was an alternative?

I was recently re-watching Casino Royale. During the film, Bond enters a high stakes poker game to cipher funds from a terrorist organisation. Of course, he doesn't use his own money. He gets to sink martinis, bed beautiful women and go all in courtesy of the UK taxpayer and later American tax dollar once he has blown his allowance faster than a labour government. While his mission parameters are clear, I always wondered why he didn't return to the casino after his victory and try and make some money on behalf of her majesty's government.

After all, he is quite good at winning in casinos. In the books his roulette strategy (which some claim to actually work) pays off. When it doesn't he could surely adopt the martingale technique, involving doubling the bet after a loss to win back everything with something on top. Of course, normal people may struggle to do any of this as their loose £10 after a pub night is unlikely to go far. The government on the other hand has almost unlimited funds.

Why not cut taxes in half and then send cabinet ministers to casinos armed with wads of treasury funds? £100 of tax could easily become £500 in the matter of seconds. Do this on a scale of £100,000s and the concept becomes clear.

Why not put a few million on red and fund a school by the end of the night? If the government lost it could just double the bet until it won. All it would be limited by were the restricted stakes which it could deregulate with legislation or simply ignore with it's endless financial backing.

The PM could hire professional poker players who would be given 50% of their winnings and be incentivised by being able to play risk free as their money would never be on the table. The government could play the lottery with the foreign aid budget, put VAT revenue on a horse or hit the slot machines with the Brexit dividend.

I can already picture the cabinet swanning about the local Grovesnor casino. Boris chugging Bloody Marys while Rees-Mogg pulls handfuls of chips from his double breasted jacket. At the other end of the room one could imagine seeing Matt Hancock reminding the croupier to watch their tone while Priti Patel rakes it in on the blackjack table.

Even if the government was profoundly unlucky, it's gambling losses would just be added to the list of useless and frivolous examples of public spending. From video game addiction clinics to public toilets, the government is great at wasting money. It might as well have fun doing it and potentially make some money in the process.