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.
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.
Read previous Reductio ad Absurdum columns
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