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Gambling licence: Why stop there?

(Pic by vierdrie / sxc.hu)

A LICENCE has been issued to allow sports betting. At least, that is according to Tan Sri Vincent Tan, although according to our prime minister, no such licence has been issued. Bursa Malaysia has yet to take any action on the announcement because they, too, are apparently uncertain as to whether Tan or the prime minister is telling the truth. No point taking action and thereafter looking silly if it’s against the wrong person.

Those who favour a government licence claim that sports gambling is an inevitability, hence there is no reason why we should not extract some revenue from it. It is “the ends justify the means” kind of argument. Just imagine how much revenue we all could enjoy. Just think of all the subsidies that can be maintained if sports gambling was allowed. Why, we could even retire Datuk Seri Idris Jala and Tan Sri Dr Koh Tsu Koon from their respective ministerial portfolios since there would be no need to look at how to restructure and reduce subsidies any longer.

Since we’re using the “ends justify the means” logic, why not take the opportunity to license a few other things as well?

Why stop at gambling?

How about we also legalise and regulate prostitution? That would be the first other thing that comes to mind. You cannot deny it. As long as there are men with means and women without, prostitution will take place.

In fact, prostitution would be a better candidate to be licensed as compared to gambling. Yes, gambling brings tax revenue. Prostitution would also bring tax revenue, in addition to various other benefits. Not least of all, there would be health benefits all around. We could control the spread of HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases if licensing conditions require all sex workers and their clients to undergo frequent medical checkups. Certainly, both the sex worker and the long-suffering spouse of the philandering man would also be protected.

(Pic by agastecheg / sxc.hu)

(Pic by agastecheg / sxc.hu)

How about abortions? Babies are dumped regularly. Illegal abortions happen under unhygienic conditions, risking the lives of pregnant women who decide to abort. Why not license abortions and ensure that they are carried out under safe conditions, after proper counselling and reasonable opportunities are offered to would-be mothers for them to explore all other alternatives?

Well, perhaps one may argue that abortion is tantamount to murder. Very well. Let’s license the sale and purchase of babies instead. In this way, no accidental mother would be forced to abort since she could openly sell her baby in the free market. Stamp duty could be payable on the instrument of sale, similar to how it is now imposed on the property market. Unwanted babies would end up in loving homes, cared for and nurtured by parents who have paid a handsome sum for the child.

Am I being preposterous? Yes, but not more ridiculous than the person who says with a straight face that we should license gambling because it is inevitable. Revenue and rampancy are never good enough reasons to permit vice.

After all, if crime gets too rampant, nobody would ever suggest licensing crime instead of curbing it.

Who loses, who benefits?

Gambling, too, is not exactly a victimless vice. There are victims involved, especially when gambling becomes an addiction. A gambler’s family would, of course, suffer first. The gambler, too, may be exposed to risks if he or she seeks to fund the habit through Ah Longs or crime. Society suffers the loss of a productive member.

Conversely, who gains if a gambling licence is issued? Of course, the licence holder would be the primary party who profits. It is not conclusive that the government will gain unless a thorough study has been made into the actual costs of gambling. The study would need to compare this cost with the projected amount of revenue before a conclusion can be made that licensing sports betting would indeed help increase the government’s coffers.

Who else might gain from a sports-betting licence? We could all probably gain personally because some subsidies could remain if the government has increased revenue from gambling activities. Yes, our rice and sugar may remain a few sen cheaper. But it only takes one family member or friend to be sucked into the gambling trap to make the rice taste stale and the sugar bitter.

Chan Kheng Hoe has won fake millions playing poker on the computer, only to lose those fake millions back again.

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17 Responses to “Gambling licence: Why stop there?”

  1. thokiat says:

    Memandangkan lompat parti belum diharamkan oleh undang-undang negara, boleh juga pertimbangkan kelulusan lesen menjual beli ahli parlimen, ADUN, senator antara parti. Jadikan jual beli sedemikian telus dan terbuka supaya yang melompat tak perlu lagi sentiasa memikirkan alasan melompat seperti hilang kepercayaan dengan, demi kebaikan pengundi.

  2. Haris says:

    I don’t think it’s preposterous at all. In fact I think you make a pretty good rational case for the legalisation of both prostitution and abortion. Why would you say it’s ridiculous?

  3. This is article falls short because it could’ve started well but ended up with hand-wringing appeals to morality. I personally support the legalisation of abortion, and am on the fence on the legalisation of prostitution.

    Perhaps a better question needs to be asked — does legalisation work as a good method of prevention? For example, the question of legalising prostitutes is made iffy by two sides of the debate: the welfare of sex workers will be better taken care of, but at the same time this does not destroy, but drive up demand for prostitution and thus the demand for illegal prostitution (where we have the same problems concerning human trafficking).

  4. kimberlycun says:

    This article reeks of simplistic reasoning. I agree that abortion and prostitution should be legalised as per the writer’s explanations above, but selling and buying babies is a breach of human rights, so the sarcasm really falls flat here :P

    Sports betting license can come with sophisticated regulations (ref: Singapore) to deter people from certain income groups etc., from indulging. Not having a license, as is the case now, does not curb societal problems caused by illegal gambling. I don’t think the writer should brush the license off so quickly.

  5. Sean says:

    “I don’t think it’s preposterous at all”
    “… article falls short”
    “… reeks of simplistic reasoning”

    I think these views are not less than reasonable. It’s a relief to see them.

  6. Smita Elena Sharma says:

    First, to clarify: those who argue for legalisation on the basis that gambling will happen either way, so better we regulate, are not making an “ends justify the means” argument. Those who argue that we should legalise so the state can use the tax profits to benefit the rakyat are. These are two different arguments, and they take different forms in reference to prostitution, abortion, and gambling. (There are also other arguments, namely from a human rights/civil liberties perspective, that many progressives find especially appealing.)

    My own position is the opposite of the one assumed in this column. In reference to abortion, for example, I do not see women who have abortions as morally depraved and I wholeheartedly support increased legalisation of abortion. (As far as I am aware, Malaysia currently allows abortion if a woman’s physical or mental health are in jeopardy.) I understand that some people may have moral qualms about abortion, but I don’t think a state should pander too much to such qualms. And on that position, I expect many mainstream, urban Malaysians are with me. We just differ on what counts as “too much.” You would not want alcohol banned just because entire families go into debt because of alcoholic fathers, would you? What about people who sit on a couch all day consuming sugar and fat; should we institute a law banning that behaviour? Those people are a huge drain on our public health system! No? We may have here the reductio this column needs.

    Now perhaps we can discuss whether or not to legalise each of these three very different matters, and a host of others, on the basis of something other than “this columnist finds the idea preposterous!” or “all vices that are a drain on the individual/family/society ought to be banned.”

  7. matdene says:

    I doubt legalising gambling will get rid of illegal gambling dens, as it may remain to be more appealing due to tax reasons. It also raises the question on how this money would be spent, as the Malaysian Muslim community would not agree morally to the use of ‘haram’ monies by the state for, for example, mosques, education or even subsidies. Same goes with prostitution. As for prostitution, the spread of STDs can be controlled through effective enforcement – but Malaysia lacks that capacity. Human trafficking is a major problem, even in countries such as the Netherlands.

    Abortion is a big no no with Catholics and Muslims, and by combining their population, they make a good 60-70% of the population – so it will be very hard to make abortion legal. A good argument against abortion is that it tends to encourage higher rates of unprotected sex and higher risks of being infected with STDs, which would cost the state more in the long run. Plus, abortion costs money and this may create a class problem where the rich can afford to have abortions but the poor and middle class can’t, and for countries like Malaysia it may be hard to give satisfactory abortion services in government hospitals to the poor.

  8. m.k. says:

    Spot on! If they can legalise one vice, why not another which is similar? They have done it (legalised prostitution) very well in a neighbouring country. So why not in Malaysia?

  9. wera says:

    The writer is not original at all. Many “why not legalise xxxxx using same justification” sarcastic comments already appeared immediately after Yais’s articles in Malaysiakini…

  10. bee yong says:

    Ya. Why does just one person get the permit to operate. The government should let all banks operate sport betting. They can also be licensed ‘Ah Long’ – one stone two birds. Stupid government, stupid people, stupid licence.

  11. Azhar says:

    [24:33] Those who cannot afford to get married shall maintain morality until GOD provides for them from His grace. Those among your servants who wish to be freed in order to marry, you shall grant them their wish, once you realize that they are honest. And give them from GOD’s money that He has bestowed upon you. You shall not force your girls to commit prostitution, seeking the materials of this world, if they wish to be chaste. If anyone forces them, then GOD, seeing that they are forced, is Forgiver, Merciful.

    Intoxicants and Gambling Prohibited*

    [2:219]
    They ask you about intoxicants and gambling: say, “In them there is a gross sin, and some benefits for the people. But their sinfulness far outweighs their benefit.” They also ask you what to give to charity: say, “The excess.” GOD thus clarifies the revelations for you, that you may reflect,

    *2:219 The world now recognizes that the economic benefits from manufacturing alcoholic beverages and illicit drugs are not worth the traffic fatalities, brain damage to children of alcoholic mothers, family crises, and other disastrous consequences. Check with “Alcoholics Anonymous” and “Gamblers Anonymous” for more information. See also 5:90-91.

    Intoxicants and Gambling Prohibited

    [5:90]
    O you who believe, intoxicants, and gambling, and the altars of idols, and the games of chance are abominations of the devil; you shall avoid them, that you may succeed.

    [5:91]
    The devil wants to provoke animosity and hatred among you through intoxicants and gambling, and to distract you from remembering GOD, and from observing the Contact Prayers (Salat). Will you then refrain?

  12. MC says:

    I am most disappointed in this article. I frequent this online news portal for unbiased and fair reporting of current issues (which is sorely lacking in our country due to obvious reasons). While you have a point to make, you put it across poorly and with contempt for the subject, totally lacking in objectiveness. Instead of approaching the issue as a journalist, you chose to address it with the insight of a gossip columnist.

    The editor should exercise more care in vetting the quality of the article before allowing it to see publication.

  13. addictionary says:

    What about making alcohol illegal then?

    It is rather simplistic to make those comparisons with prostitution and baby selling in such a manner.

    Why not use banning alcohol as an example. Following this analogy, not everyone who drinks become addicted, but it takes ‘one family member to be sucked into the alcohol addiction trap’ to ruin a family…and in some cases, entire villages.

    If that’s the case, shouldn’t alcohol be illegal as well?

    Or should we instead, be looking at the context and situation at hand? Have better regulations, or we might even ban them for certain situations where alcoholism has ravaged entire communities, or [is the cause of] some societal problem/decline. But many in Selangor won’t agree to a ban. Maybe because it isn’t a social problem to that extent and certainly not for reasons of morality, or having others impose [their morals].

    Anyway, perhaps sports betting is a whole new ball game and by and large analogies only work if one really knows the issue at hand.

    Can someone write about what Mahathir said instead, about how the ‘Chinese like to gamble’. That’s racist.

  14. semuanya OK kot says:

    From a TV documentary on lotteries in the USA, run only by state governments:

    - prompted by political fear of raising taxes;
    - secret but doubtful (marginal) gains in government income, despite vast promotions and variety;
    - false claims that they finance education, sports etc. They provide only a small fraction of expenses for these areas;
    - bad impact on gamblers and their families, clear addiction;
    - definitely attracts and affects the poor far more – is a tax on the poor;
    - very low and undisclosed odds, e.g. treatment of unsold tickets;
    - very similar to casinos despite the distinctions claimed. One “lottery” has results displayed on terminals at “lottery centres” every 5 min.
    - many who won have had bad changes in life. This has always been the case.

  15. Good article except for this part :

    “As long as there are men with means and women without, prostitution will take place.” The door swings both ways, this is very sexist! [...] The adult industry is not limited by gender but must be consensual and not be exploitative, that is where legalisation comes in to protect.

    [...]

    Legalisation also prevents black market monopolies that drive up the prices charged for services and corrupts local enforcement. [...]

    [...]

    Emotionally, legalizing prostitution helps to dignify both genders as well. God knows how many bend over backwards with all the pretenses just for sex or marriage because there are no straightforward adult venues for the same. It makes men insincere liars and women into conniving ‘marriage traps’. With legalised prostitution in place, men will not have to pull all sorts of maneuvers or commit to marriage insincerely to get sex, women will know that men who do propose marriage are not proposing so they can have sexual outlets but are emotionally committed and all those somewhere in between can express their sexuality as well as participate in society via legal avenues.

    [...]

    Finally, today’s salary scales are wrong.

    1) Dangerous and laborious jobs (like blue collar production, construction, building maintenance, clerical or academic and stunt actors should receive the highest salaries by sheer volume of effort)

    2) Pleasant and far less stressful work (white collar management type office based), pleasurable (like prostitution) and glamorous jobs (like modeling, acting) are already compensation in themselves and should receive minimal salaries and minimal perks.

    3) Ministers, MPs and Assembly[persons] should not have business interests or second jobs or receive salaries at all, and be at Parliament only out of altruism and desire to ease society’s pains, right wrongs, prevent wrongs, not follow political greed. [...]

    4) Leave the capitalists to accrue wealth up to a USD$20 million level, the rest should be returned to society to ensure there are no poor or homeless or needy in society. This is a much needed socialist limit on wealth that can be used to prevent sequestering of wealth to no purpose but the egotism of multimillionaires and billionaires, while fellow humans live in appalling conditions, die and starve or have no access to education and health care.

    The poorest and most uneducated have as much rights as the richest and most educated to the same amenities because all humans are equal inheritors of the world. We cannot claim the rights of others for our own or prevent others from expressing themselves, and majority is just as important as minority simply for diversity. [...] There must be space for all. We must make space for all so that monocultures do not exist to put everyone at risk. Want to get along with the universe? Then, regard everything and everyone as equal or give them a hand up and the space to indulge, do not be selfish and if you can afford it run for elections to give people an option for freedom and equality…

    Just a reminder as well in the Malaysian context. We need :

    1) Freedom from apartheid/fascism
    2) Freedom from religious persecution/religious supremacy.
    3) Equality for all ethnic groups and faiths in all aspects of policy, law and the Constitution.


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