FRANCIS PAUL SIAH
COMMENT | No, the subject of this piece is not the controversial study trip of inspector-general of police Mohamad Fuzi Harun and his delegation to Turkey.
We have read enough to form our own conclusion whether the trip, to study online gambling in Istanbul by a surprisingly huge number of top police brass, was above board.
I believe this issue will be discussed and debated in the days and weeks to come, even though Home Minister Muhyiddin Yassin has cleared them, saying that the trip was approved by him.
What is more interesting arising out of this episode is the statement by Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng that the Turkey trip was paid for by Da Ma Cai, a gaming company.
Lim said that although the trip had been approved by the Totalisator Board – an agency under the Finance Ministry – the money did not come from the government.
“The source of funding is not the Finance Ministry. Da Ma Cai, a numbers forecast operator (NFO) funded the trip, so they didn’t get a penny from us,” he told reporters.
Wow! So Da Ma Cai is well-connected with the government and its key enforcement agency, the police. What does that tell us?
I will not digress, but stick to voicing my concerns on gambling, whether legal or otherwise, and the damage it has inflicted on many, the average families in particular. My focus is on the increasing number of weekly draws conducted by the NFOs.
I have lost count of the number of NFOs in the country. Save for the three main operators – Magnum, Toto and Da Ma Cai – I’m not sure of the others operating in Sabah and Sarawak. I believe there must be a handful of them.
When we discuss the issue of gambling in Malaysia, I find it somewhat mind-boggling because the government also seems to be confused about its real intention on the matter. Does it want to encourage or discourage Malaysians from gambling?
On the one hand, the police have clamped down hard on illegal gambling and they have been quite successful on the online gambling front. Kudos to Bukit Aman and the government on this score.
But then, we also seem to be encouraging Malaysians to gamble by allowing the mushrooming of 4D outlets throughout the country. More such gaming companies are also granted licences – how many are there now, Finance Ministry?
Please let us know too, how many more applications are on the table and what is the ministry’s direction on this?
Meantime, what is worrying is that the NFOs are given many extra Special Draws weekly. Needless to say, punters (and these are the average Malaysians) are the ones to suffer more with the extra draws.
When times are tough, the desperate will turn to gambling, hoping (against hope, perhaps) to strike it big in order to resolve their financial woes.
Because of the popularity of 4D in the country, many Malaysians are now habitual gamblers. And the gaming companies are introducing more games like the Jackpot, 3D, 6D, Gold Plus (and what have you) offering multi-million ringgit prizes to attract more punters.
Well, so who is encouraging Malaysians to gamble? Who is responsible for this sorry state of affairs?
It’s well and good that we are trying to curb illegal gambling. The question here is, if illegal gambling is bad and should be curbed, how is legalised gambling okay?
Even if we leave out the issues of ethics, moral, cultural or religious sensitivities of gambling, it is bad in all its forms.
That is why I find this issue of gambling in Malaysia very puzzling. I have no clear answers to this state of affairs. I can only guess why we allow more gaming companies to introduce more games and conduct extra draws.
I have another important question and I hope it will prick the conscience of those in power. Is the sin tax worth the suffering and agony of the many less-fortunate people you have pledged to offer a better life to?
Haven’t we heard enough of the sad tales of housewives parting with their duit sayur in exchange for 4D tickets?
I would even venture to say that it is a mortal sin to be the cause of children going hungry due to the foolishness of the mother. No 4D draws, no problem in the first place!
Let it be known to one and all that gamblers can never win. Problem gambling can be so destructive.
Those who gamble habitually often suffer enormous social, economic, and psychological implications. Individuals, families and communities all suffer from problem gambling.
Finally, let me make an earnest appeal to the finance minister. If it is within your power, please cut the number of weekly Special Draws to the NFOs immediately. Just let them stick to the original weekend draws – twice weekly and that’s it.
This will not curb the gambling problem among Malaysians but it is a start. We need to start somewhere, no matter how small a step it is.
FRANCIS PAUL SIAH heads the Movement for Change, Sarawak (MoCS) and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.