6 August, 2020

Blog

Casino Circus

By M. A. Sumanthiran –

M A Sumanthiran

It was with great relief that I noted that the Government had decided to put on hold the decision to approve regulations governing gazette notifications for the establishment of casinos in Colombo. Amidst protest by key government allies SLMC and JVP and opposition party UNP, the powers that be had little choice but to re-think an act that could well turn out to be a disaster for our society and economy.

However, there is no guarantee that this decision will not be brought up again as soon as the heat subsides, as has been the case with other government proposals that have not been received well at the outset and have been passed later with little resistance from us! The casino circus could continue!

As such I would like to assess this issue further.  Gambling, as a form of entertainment, can be described simply as playing a game to make a quick buck. To some perhaps the fun is in the game itself. However, to others it is in the risk of gain or loss that comes with one ‘pitch or toss’! To yet others it is in the ‘quick buck’ that can be won so easily – the fact that the chances of losing that ‘quick buck’ are as high is dismissed as negligible! For addiction blinds you to risk, to harm, and before you know it you are caught in its trap.  And so the wise man in the Book of Proverbs of the Holy Bible warns us that ‘wealth gained hastily will dwindle…” Here is an indication that money habitually gained without effort, without work may not last.

Make no mistake gambling can become addictive and as such gambling along with smoking and drinking is denounced by most religions as a form of social evil. Some would consider this intolerant. Yet, most people no matter their religion would consider any of the above harmful when indulged in to an extreme.

Not many will attempt to justify chain smoking, drunkenness and protracted gambling, except in that the individual should be free to make their own choice. And yet, leaving cigarettes and alcohol aside, it is noteworthy that research indicates an increase in gambling addiction in areas close to gaming zones.

For example, a 2010 report by Ohio based research firm Community Research Partners (CRP) states that,

“The University of Chicago’s National Opinion Research Center (NORC 1999) estimates that 1.2%

of U.S. adults are lifetime pathological gamblers and 1.5% are lifetime problem gamblers.

The literature shows a connection between casinos and increased rates of compulsive gambling

problems. Reith et al (2006) cite a variety of research (NORC 1999, Welte et al 2004, Emerson

and Laundegran 1996, Volberg 1995) to show that the location of a casino within 50 miles of an

individual’s home is associated with approximately double the likelihood of problem gambling.

Based on this, opening a casino could potentially double the existing prevalence and social

impacts of problem gambling in a community.”

Thus availability it seems influences or perhaps even impedes freedom of choice! For no one surely, chooses to become addicted to anything that will result in harm. And that gambling is harmful is undeniable.  This same CRP report further states that,

“the NORC study found that the subpopulations of pathological and problem gamblers are more likely

than other gamblers or non‐gamblers to have been on welfare, to have declared bankruptcy, to have

been arrested or incarcerated, and to have received mental health care.”

In fact it is in acknowledging this harm that Singapore, after having under the leadership of Lee Kuan Yew, resisted casinos for decades, allowed the building of two state of the art gambling resorts, but has since tightened its control of these same resorts due to the increase in problem gambling and related social issues. Amendments to the Casino Regulatory Act has ensured a high casino entry levy for citizens and permanent residents, a monthly limit on casino visits and bans from entering casinos at the request of family members.

There is no doubt then that Gambling can be harmful and that controlling its ill effects will be no easy thing.  We must not then hasten into approving an Act that though allowing for a few hours of pleasure to those who may not become addicted, can and will result in increasing social, family and financial issues for others with less resistance to its attractiveness.

The justification for casinos across the world is its supposed economic benefits. That casino resorts will bring an increase in employment and revenue is definite. In fact a January 2013 Reuters report on the tough new rules for Singapore’s casinos indicates that casinos are “still generating healthy profits despite the new enforcements”.

However, that this revenue is so high that it outweighs the social impacts is questionable.  In this same article an education professional is quoted thus: “Casinos did bring more jobs, more visibility for Singapore, more economic benefits. Yet it’s also undeniably true that the undercurrents behind these benefits are there too – broken families and ruined lives and the increased social costs that come with it.”

In such a context what should be the response of the government? Matt Doeden in his book ‘Legalized Gambling: Revenue Boom or Social Bust?’ identifies four positions a government may take:

Prohibition

Tolerance

Regulation

Operation

Sri Lanka right now maintains a mixed approach i.e., Tolerance (casinos operate freely with no regulations and only a small levy) and Operation (National Lotteries Board etc). Singapore has chosen Regulation after years of Prohibition.

Sri Lanka has just emerged from a thirty year civil war that has resulted in massive social crises not only in the North East but all over the island. We are still recovering from years of racism, violence, destruction and death. Reconciliation is or should be our priority. In addition law and order has become an urgent issue within our corrupt and hostile system.

Should we risk further social upheaval at a time when we are struggling to recover from our damaged past? Whom should the law protect? Should it protect the freedom of the majority to make their own choices or should it protect the vulnerable minority in our increasingly fragile community?

Should gambling be prohibited or legalized and regulated if the economic benefits outweigh the social harm? These are questions to be considered seriously in the government induced pause on the casino circus. At least, if nothing else, let us not be silent and watch as yet another foreign party plunders our land with tax free benefits to set up exorbitant casino resorts for the benefit of the rich and not so famous!

*The author, M. A. Sumanthiran (B.Sc, LL.M) is a Member of Parliament through the Tamil National Alliance (TNA), a senior practicing lawyer, prominent Constitutional and Public Law expert and civil rights advocate

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Latest comments

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    Gambling ruined one of my granduncles. He was an educated man and held a senior civil service post. Addiction to gambling led to him losing his job, his family and friends and he ended up living in a shed till his dying days. It is not the educated and the rich who become victims of gambling but the majority are the poor and the under or uneducated. In this evil game there are only a few winners, and most lose, and some lose everything.

  • 0
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    Thank You Mr Sumanthiran for your concise outlining of the matter at hand. I am an inverterate gambler and have been for years; from Las Vegas to Macau, Monte Carlo to Sin City. I don’t know how much I have lost; I have no idea how much I have won. I doesn’t matter to me because I have been able to feed and clothe the family well. But I do know the faces of the men (usually) who have ruined themselves by their addiction. So it is important that you and your colleagues in parliament, and our President, gets this right. Otherwise, in years to come, many an impoverished mother will relate to her children the tale of a government that did not come up trumps when the chips were down.
    I shall be a keen follower of your deliberations.

  • 0
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    Legalization of MALE/FEMALE prostitution WOULD be the next step of MR regime.
    No secret, that srilanka has been the gay paradise to european tourists for several decades.

    In this way, Rajapakshe administration can satisfy chinese and russians in the years to come.

  • 0
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    The Rajapakses do not like to told that what they want to do is not good for the country. They,decide to do they will do
    whatever the consequences. They will lie low for the moment but eventually Colombo will have the casinos as very powerful people
    are involved and far too much is at stake.

  • 0
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    I wish he hadn’t dragged religion into it.
    Would have expected Sumanthiran to address the issue from a rule of law and crony capitalism aspect rather than social morality.
    Anyway, hard to disagree with the points he makes.

    • 0
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      This is the very reason why the many of us like his articles. He fully focuses on the issues that majority of us raise.

  • 0
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    Casino is a one form gambling that Rajapakse regime (family)try to experiment to make billions of wealth to their pockets. This will make poor Sri lankans to loose everything. This regime also play a big political gamble in the form racism which took away from us thousands of lives (both Sinhalese and Tamils), the resources and the human values. If we continue the same path, Sri Lanka will become a ghost nation!

    • 0
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      Question:
      in other comparable countries, before being passed Casino bill or any other issues, they should seek the mandate in the parliament. What was the case in the casino issue in lanken parliament ? Can anybody pass me a comment in this regard please ?
      In this way, they the brutal rulers would get passed anything what they the idiots think are better for the country soon ?

      US to India when getting passed any kind of bills, they have to hold debates on them in parliament. Why was that different in current day srilanka ?

  • 0
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    Gambling ruined one of my granduncles b’cus he was idiot.
    Smoking kills.
    drinking kills

    Yet we do.

    wish he (Sumanthiran)hadn’t dragged religion into it. Yet he did. He is just a talk shop with no real substane in him and he who clings on to any carcass to score browny points.
    A typical cheap skate attempting to impress the reader.

    will make poor Sri lankans to loose everything ONLY if they engage

    • 1
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      What do you mean by ‘dragging religion into it’? Every major religion looks upon gambling as a vice! So what is wrong in making reference to the religions? Only atheists who in any case are only a handful may object to such reference!

      Sengodan. M

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    Yes, the ‘morality’ is nauseating.

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    Thiruvalluvar the great moralist wrote a chapter of ten verses on the evil that was gambling. That was 1900 years ago. He said:

    “Even if you score a win, never desire gambling, since what you have won is like swallowing a golden bait”

    “When one takes to gambling, good clothing, wealth, food, reputation and eduction will all desert”

    “Love of gambling increases as one continues to loose, likewise the soul gets more attached to the body even as it suffers more and more pain”

  • 0
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    This Casino Circus was born out of the hidden wealth held by the King
    & family who wish to have it laundered via henchmen and disclose it
    partly as legitimate earnings over which due income tax was paid! The
    track-record of some of the earnings can be guaged here:
    [Edited out]

    No gossip links please – CT

  • 0
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    Lets get our facts separate from our opinions. If the Rajapoxes think Casino’s are good for Sri Lanka let them appoint an Independent Commission and call for tenders to lease land for 99 years with transparent regulations and evaluate everyone who applys. If Packer’s proposal passes the test, he is entitled to get an option.

    It is the corruption that bothers me. Packer has obviously bribed a few to get in through the back door. How Dammika Perera crept in with a few options on the cards, we can all figure out!

    The idea of attracting investment is to generate jobs and increase economic activity all round. The ‘poxes’ motivation is to generate bribes, period!

  • 0
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    So Jaffna needs a casino. Good. Give them a few.

    Most Jaffna people get foreign money. A casino can harvest these ill-gotten money.

    • 0
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      and in the mantime Fathima Fukushima alias ‘Lorenso’ was so busy playing with himself looking at Lankaweb that he has developed a tennis elbow!

    • 0
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      they wont gamble with their money. they will gamble with other peoples money and make money for them. Very cleaver.

  • 0
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    Haven’t Harrahs got a few mini Casinos already in Colombo?.

    Now that the free market champions , the UNP officially declaring hat they will ban Casinos when they come to power and their ally Mr Sumane totally against Packer’s Dig, will the US and the Tami Diaspora PM take offence to these development which hurt Harrah and American and Western commercial and business interests?.

    1.2 and 1.5 percents are nothing when Uncle Sam has installed Mega Casinos even on “Homelands” in US territory.

    In Srilanka, the Vellalas in Colombo now have the luxury of moving to their new Homeland in the North,if they don’t like a punt at the Colombo Crown, leaving their Cosmopolitan Intelligentsia mates to wreck themselves playing the Roulette.

    What option the poor American Natives have?.

    Wonder whether PM Rudra and US officials have this Casino business on the agenda, when they meet up with the high powered Trio , Senathiraja, Sumanathiran and Sathisaran trio when they arrive in the US soon.

    • 0
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      [Edited out] we are talking of the casinos in colombo and its implications and your talking of Sambanda,tell me are you Gay or what ?

  • 0
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    Every game of chance is designed to benefit the operator. Ultimately the participants are the losers and the total loss is very,very high if one is to go by the profit amassed by the operator! It is nothing short of swindling!

    Sengodan. M

  • 0
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    Casinos do not ‘make’ money. They only rob the money of participants!

    Sengodan. M

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    “…the powers that be had little choice but to re-think an act that could well turn out to be a disaster for our society and economy.”

    The re-thinking wasn’t as much to do with it being ” a disaster for our society and economy”, as being how to figure out ways to slither out of this minor dilemma. Since when did the ‘Powers’ care about “our society and economy” if they were standing to add to their wealth?

  • 0
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    Good article Mr.Sumantheran our Parliament should be filled of diplomats like you instead of underworld criminals , stupid cricketers,widowed actresses and 8th grade passed foolish cabinet ministers…
    Then only our country will become the “wonder of Asia

    • 0
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      I think it is the unforgivable failure of all opposition parties not only UNP to allow all idiots to get passed anything that they consider is right at the moment in that animal farm (present day parliament). At the time politicians like Galle Dr. Dahanayaka (lived near to Richmond hills) had been in the Parliament, we were very proud of lanken politicians. I really dont think todays generations would ever feel any good about local politicians looking at the manner that they behave today. Candidates like MERVIN or WIMAL W had no chance at the time, because higly educated candidates always maintained the disipline among them. May be as it is the nature for each regime, I have good memories MrsB days, or at the beginning of UNP regime in SL late 70ties, people enjoyed democracy in the country. Also at the beginning of CBK the people in general were not that desperate as it is the case today.

  • 0
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    Is Sri Lanka’s moral gain Australia’s moral loss?
    Or is Sri Lanka’s economic loss Australia’s economic gain?

    http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/latest-news/crown-nsw-govt-agree-on-sydney-casino/story-fn3dxiwe-1226757629617

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