Last evening, while hunting for a customer like a hawk along Geyland Road, I finally spotted a young Chinese man with a packed laundry basket, standing under the shadow of a huge tree. With a poor eye sight, I almost missed him but managed to nab him before the cabby behind me did.
"Uncle, please go to Aljunie Crescent. Can you wait for me after we arrive as I want to use your taxi again." he asked politely in Hokkien dialect, after he sat down beside me.
"Sure, No problem" I answered in Singapore Hokkien.
His forehead was covered in sweat and smelt like someone who had not taken a bath for a month. From the unmistakable accent of his spoken Hokkien, I knew he was from Penang in Malaysia. He had a chubby face but looks sad and desperate like someone with tons of worries and ready to kill and gobble his prey.
A moment later, we exchanged glances momentarily and he said
"Uncle, I'm very sad. This afternoon I lost a lot of money and is now forced to shift house".
"What happen? I asked in empathy but with the curiosity of a cat.
"I think my best friend, who stayed with me in our rented room, stole my money" he replied angrily.
"I lost nearly $2,000 and this money is for my old and sick mother in Malaysia and she depends on it for her medication." he grieved in a choking voice.
Before he could continue his sad story, we arrived at his new accommodation, as the distance was very short. He unloaded his basket of meager belongings and disappeared into the darkness but not before he placed some money with me as security. I refused to accept but he insisted.
Within minutes and before I could finished my puff, he returned.
"Uncle, should we go the Marina Bay Casino or Resort World Casino?. he asked sincerely, scratching his head, as I started off.
"What?. In your present situation, why are you going to a casino. I thought you want to continue with your house removal" I replied with a surprise look.
"I had made a police report against my friend and they had "dust" my room for his finger prints but couldn't find any. They suggested that I should try to find him in a casino since he had borrowed money from me previously to gamble there." he began to reveal more.
"Although my friend earns about $3,000 monthly, he's always desperate for money. He had became an incorrigible gambler since the opening of the two casino in Singapore." he said moodily.
I had heard similar stories before and the evils of gambling are well documented. I sighed to myself.
"Lets go to Marina Bay Casino since it's nearer and hopefully, you find him quickly before he lost all his money! I suggested and he accepted. Soon we arrived at the casino and he departed with my wish that he gets his stolen money back.
A long queue of about 50 customers, most with unsmiling faces and forlorn look were waiting impatiently for the few taxi that came into the driveway. At the head of the queue, an elderly woman of about sixties boarded and asked to be driven to Bedok South Road. Before long, we got into a conversation in general and finally about her venture at the casino.
"Today, luck no good. I lost nearly $1,500. I must stop but I couldn't" she said in local Hokkien.
"Difficult to win from casino. When you lost, you want to go back to recover. When you win, you want to go back to win more. So you always go back. In the end, you'll become an addict. You must stop". I ventured to counsel her like her brother.
"Yes, I know. But it's so difficult to stop. If my children knows I'm a gambling addict, I'll surely die!" she moaned regretfully as she spoke.
"Sister, you can stop if you really, really want. Stop before it's too late" I added.
"Brother, can I pay the fare of $12 by Nets. I've no cash" she asked when we reached her destination. "Yes, you can" I said.
With a receipt in her hand, she walked slowly away with an umbrella as her walking stick and in a hunch. Again, I sighed to myself.
As I cruised along the highway into the city, a thousand thoughts float through my mind, like the falling leaves of an old tree in a thunder storm. Eventually, the thoughts of the evils of the two casinos and gambling, in general, crystallized in my mind and I would like to share them with you, my readers.
Our Government ultimate interest in gambling is spurred by the need to obtain additional sources of tax revenue to finance it's increasingly expensive and self serving activities. They propagate convincingly that the casino would bring thousands of new jobs, boost tourism and economy as a whole. These are nothing more than a means to an end. How many new jobs created are for the locals? How much had the tourism industry and economy improved? We are still forewarned that our economy is in for hard times as the world financial sector is now in turmoil. In my opinion, the main beneficiaries from the opening of the two casino are the moneylenders, illegal loansharks, banks and credit card companies that offer soft loans, the budget hotels and taxi drivers (smile). Whereas, the victims are the devastated families with huge gambling debts.
The entry levy for locals, the voluntary self-restriction, counseling centers for problem gamblers and prohibition of advertisement or scheme that discourages visitors to casino, are nothing more than gimmicks to hook-wink the public. Are these anti-gambling "devices" effective in preventing and reducing the social ills of gambling in Singapore? No. not now or ever!. Billions of dollars of investment had gone into establishment of our two casinos and they are here to stay forever unless there is a change of government with a different policies. I'm worried for my children, my children's children and the future generations of Singaporean.
Resort World Sentosa Casino
Individual interest in gambling is doubtlessly stimulated by the additional free time and cash in the hands of our increasingly affluent society. But gambling’s basic attraction for the individual has always been the lure of “getting something for nothing".
Shattered families, divorce, robbery, theft, suicide, and murder are a few of the evils that gambling PROMOTES and the rates of these preventable incidents and crimes had shot up through the roofs in Singapore. The revenue taken in taxes is small compared to the cost of social illness it generates. Gambling is a principle factor in the ruination of the home and a person's character.