I don't really buy that argument, because if you make it, then it can probably be used to legitimize deregulation of any market. Guns, alcohol, drugs, etc.
Sure there are SOME people who would gamble no matter what. But if they literally don't have to leave the house to do it, more people are going to vs if they had to actually go to a casino. Obviously, the reason that there is a push to legalize online gambling is because they anticipate way more people will gamble if they do so.
Government can't regulate everything, but certain things raise enough problems that they do, i.e. hard drugs. Unless you're a true libertarian, there are bound to be some things that should be limited. I feel gambling ought to be one of them.
As for providing them help after the fact, that begs the question. If the people running the online betting are paying for that, then that's one thing. The argument is that the tax revenue will support things like education and such which will benefit all of us in the long run. But, intuitively I feel that the amount of money that society has to pay out to help gambling addicts and others affected (i.e. children who need support that their parents can't provide) will be greater than the amount we get out of it. And we know that the people most likely to struggle with gambling are those least able to afford it http://www.buffalo.edu/news/releases/2014/01/001.html. So the end result is funneling money upwards.
Lets put it this way. I really do not need the government to police everything I do. You can overeat and cause all kinds of health problems, should the government regulate that. You can over drink on any particular thing, should the government regulate that. You can game until you die, should the government monitor your gaming and police that. Where does personal responsibility ends and government intervention begin. I am all for regulation when the action has an effect that causes more than one person issues but if that action causes only the person an issue and its their responsibility to manage it, then I am not for government intervention. There does come a point where I do not need to be babysitted by ever action I take that can cause some measure of harm by the government.
Just like there are places to help people with overeating, drinking, gaming and any other type of action that can cause issues for people who cannot managed their daily lives, the same goes for gambling which I might add there are plenty of services already there.
Humans will always find something to get addicted to especially for people who are more susceptible to addition. Its not like we woke up today and gambling or any other type of activity suddenly hit the scene. Online gambling is no different then wall street gambling on stocks and other financial items. Its the same thing, people take risk like this all the time and some get paid and most others get burned.
If I would agree with anything is age. Just like Drinking, Smoking or any of these types of activities, age should be regulated but I believe that is already the case. We already tried to over regulate drinking and smoking and the only thing it did was move it underground. Best to keep it above the surface so it can be monitored.
But not everything is equally addictive.
In Skinner's experiments, rats were presented with a machine that gave food pellets when they pressed a level. They varied how often the machine would release foods. Every time, once every x times, or completely randomly.
When the reward was random, the rats would press the level far more, even after they had eaten the same amount of pellets as the rats who got a pellet every time.
We're also really bad at dealing with probability. People tend to vastly overestimate the chance of unlikely events happening. Statistically, there is no rational reason to ever play something like powerball, but people do.
Then of course there's the matter of how fast the consequences are. I can definitely destroy my health with twinkies, but that's going to require quite a bit of time, during which it is possible for some kind of intervention. On the other hand, I can overdose on opiods in a single day. So, that is much more dangerous and worth regulation.
So, I don't think that the amount of people who will become addicted to something in a life-ruining way is inevitably going to be the same regardless of what they have access to. Certain things are just more addictive to others. We also have the issue that people are exceptionally bad at navigating the risks and rewards of gambling compared to other areas. And considering gravity of the potential harm and the speed of which it hits, then there's a much stronger case for regulating gambling compared to for example Mayor Mike's campaign against soda.
That doesn't necessarily mean that gambling is serious enough to be regulated, but that depends where you want to draw the line. I don't believe you're a pure libertarian who thinks that anything adults consent to should be allowed for the government, so let's use some examples to draw the line. Assume we are in a society with only adults that meet our current standards for mental competence.
Should heroin be legal?
Should heroin be unregulated?
Should the government be able to ticket people for not wearing seatbelts?
Should the government be able to force car manufacturers to provide seatbelts?
Should the government forbid predatory loan rates?