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Our racist gambling hypocrisy against the Chinese [The Fiji Times, 5 Nov 1999]

29/03/2012

When it comes to gambling, how hypocritical can we get?

Police raids on Chinese “gambling dens”

In the last two weeks we have seen on television, images of a “gambling den” being raided.  Groups of ordinary people being herded off to the police station and charged as common criminals.  Tables, boards and games equipment confiscated.

Fiji is proudly told that a serious gambling vice and criminal activity, associated the world over with dangerous drugs, was being destroyed by an ever-vigilant Police.

  Are we being fair to Chinese gamblers?

Why are we treating only this kind of gambling as an illegal activity?

Is it because the “culprits” are ethnic Chinese, “aliens” playing and gambling on a game of chance, that the rest of Fiji does not play or understand?

How different is Chinese gambling from all the other kinds that are to be found right throughout our society, condoned by Law, freely advertised as desirable attractive activities, even contributing to charity and Government taxes?

Fiji has gambling everywhere: what is legal?

In any gambling, we risk some money.  We might win some or a lot, might lose some, or even lose all.

We can gamble openly against other individuals, or against a system, which requires a whole lot of anonymous people gambling.  The gamble can involve a lot of skill, some skill, some pretence at skill, or no skill at all.

Look at all the systematic “lottery” gambling we have inFiji.  Tattslotto.  Scratchies. FijiSixes.  Lotteries run by organisations, churches, schools and companies.

Lottery tickets are sold everywhere.  Advertised on TV using the usual jingles and gimmicks, appealing essentially to people’s greed.  It’s so easy to scratch, isn’t it?   Millions of us will get a lot, won’t we, for just a little?  Companies even use people’s gambling greed to sell furniture, household goods, petrol, anything.

There is no skill involved.  And most of us have no idea at all about the “odds” (or probability) of winning or losing- we just look at the $1 sign followed by the zeroes.

There are dozens of gambling games where there is some pretence at skills, in “judging winners”.  Betting houses abound where punters can gamble on horses, dogs, rugby and soccer teams winning world cups.  Or on any strange event where the betting company is willing to offer odds.

For every one who wins (with great fanfare and publicity),  there are hundreds, thousands, millions, who do not win.  Whose greed leads them to try yet again and again.  Statisticians know full well that in the long run, the average gambler will lose.

Socially very damaging: but Government gets a cut

Social welfare organisations and church groups inFijiknow how damaging many of these publicly accepted gambling vices are to the families, whose adults fritter away large parts of their precious incomes every week.

But the owners of the gambling system, make a killing, from the thousands and millions of small losers.

And in most of the formal sector activities, Government receives, without any effort, a share of the cut, through taxes.

Often, the system is justified to the public by throwing a few scraps to “worthy causes” such as sports.  This makes sure that sports organisations throw their weight behind the gambling.

New gambling systems, such as Casinos, even receive Government support supposedly to boost the tourism industry.  Despite the enormous opposition from Church groups and social welfare organisations, Governments press on regardless.

Some lotteries do devote a large part of their take to charitable purposes, such as overseas medical treatment for those who cannot afford it.   But is gambling justified because part of the proceeds are used for charity?  What about doing the same with cocaine, or heroin?

We accept many  gambling events: Hibiscus, Melbourne Cup

Some gambling events are seen as an essential part of the national culture.  Hibiscus, Sugar, Bula, Blah Blah “festivals” would not be the same without the gaming tables for “Over and Under Seven”, “Crown and Anchor”, the roulette wheels, and the other strange card games.

These games are totally unregulated and unmonitored by the Law. Shady characters abound, with strange shortened decks of cards, and craftily rolled dice.  The public have absolutely no idea at all of their real oddds of winning and losing.  In some, the operator never runs any real risk of losing.

Fiji merrily and legally takes part in international gambling events.

Just this week,Fijiresidents were encouraged to think that the great expression of Australian gambling culture,  the Melbourne Cup, had also now become part of mainstreamFijiculture.  “Fijicoming to a stop” in the Centra and Tradewinds?

Fancy hats, smoked salmon, oysters, champagne, wine and beer.    Totally plastered people.  But, of course, that is not “drug abuse”, oh no.

Our society even condones face-to-face gambling on games of poker, snooker or darts.  All kinds of sports and social clubs and private houses around the country have little gambling groups comprising the most respected citizens of society, from all walks of life.

Business persons, professionals, and morally upright members from the highest echelons of the legal and religious fraternities.  Indians, Europeans, Fijians, Local Chinese, and parts thereof.

They may be gambling; they may be having a drink or two, or a smoke a two.  But it is thought to be clean innocent fun, involving skills in reading cards, or hitting balls into pockets.

A social affair among friends, engaging in activities which have been carried on by humans from time immemorial, satisfying some deep primeval human urge for risk-taking.  Perhaps there is a Darwinian dictum that “those who dare, will take home the bacon and the bird”.

The Chinese gambling is the same

Likewise, on Victoria Parade the other day, there were some farmers and traders, after their hard day’s work, engaging in a bit of innocent gambling.  Perhaps small sums.  Perhaps big sums.  Some moral citizens.  Perhaps a shady character or two.

No different from the rest of us who gamble away to our hearts’ delight without being bothered by the Police.  But these Chinese gamblers were busted by the Police.

 

It is time that the police and the law end this ridiculous unfair persecution of Chinese gamblers inFiji.   Or ban all forms of gambling activities inFiji, including Tattslotto, club poker games, betting houses for horse racing, the Melbourne Cup events in Fiji, etc.

 

Let us end this racist gambling hypocricy.

 

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