Kota Kinabalu, Wednesday, 18 September 2019
The proposed total ban on all licensed slot machines without having first put in place an overall strategy to tackle the overall gambling menace in Sabah is reckless because the total ban on licensed slot machines at registered clubs will provide fertile ground for illegal slot machine operators to thrive.
Has the government considered the possibility that there are illegal operators (of slot machines) lurking around to take over the vacuum created by the impending ban on all slot machines?
While I laud the supposed effort of the state government to solve social ills arising from licensed slot machines in registered clubs, the question is: Why is there no talk and no action on other forms of gambling such as legal 4-Ds, illegal 4-Ds, illegal slot machines and online gaming in cyber cafes and elsewhere?
Gamblers know that, once the registered clubs have been closed, they (the gamblers) can still patronize illegal gambling dens which might take over the business. In other words, the main causes of social ills arising from gambling will thrive from the total ban on licensed slot machines.
The social ills arising from illegal gambling are worse than that of licensed gambling. I am not talking about loss of revenues to the government or the loss of jobs affecting employees of clubs. I am talking about gambling syndicates and criminal gangs taking advantage of the sudden vacuum left by the complete closure of slot machines in clubs.
Like so many other actions and inactions of this government, the proposed ban on licensed slot machines seem to lack clarity of purpose and leave room for doubts. Therefore, I call on the government to come up with an overall strategy and policy to combat the social ills caused by gambling.
As a reference, as far back as August 2004, the Social Agenda Bureau of SAPP has published our research on the gambling menace. That was after SAPP and the Sabah Government’s arduous and hard won victory to curb rampant gambling in Sabah in the late 1990s.
The SAPP 2004 research had recommended:
1. Intensify law enforcement against illegal gambling,
2. Introduce aggressive educational programmes on the risks of all forms of gambling,
3. Set up professional centres to counsel and treat pathological and habitual gamblers,
4. Government to conduct a social and economic impact analysis of gambling activities,
5. To strengthen anti-gambling laws,
6. To have mandatory warning signs against gambling at all licensed gambling centres similar to the health warning labels on cigarette packets, and
7. To stiffen penalties for court convictions for illegal gambling.
In recent years, the emergence of online (internet) gambling, mostly using credit cards, have aggravated social problems. These gamblers use credit, or borrowed money, to gamble. Therefore, the government must employ its resources and powers such as under the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission to block off online gaming sites as practised in some other countries.
Datuk Yong Teck Lee
SAPP President, ex-Chief Minister, anti-gambling campaigner
Yong with SAPP Secretary General, Datuk Richard Yong We Kong and Vice President Gee Tien Siong, holding copies of the SAPP booklet “Gambling … the enemies within” published in August 2004