Toh Kin Woon explains why he finds it difficult to accept that the government is considering giving its official seal of approval to football gambling.
Of late, there have been a lot of debates in the print media on legalising football gambling. Given the ongoing World Cup football tournament in South Africa, this issue has become all the more heated and relevant.
Initially, it was claimed that the Federal Government had already given out to Berjaya the licence to operate legal football gambling. But when this news was greeted with strong opposition by many quarters, the Federal Government quickly denied it.
To be fair, some individuals and organisations like former premier Dr Mahathir, the MCA, the MIC and the Associated Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry have expressed support for the government’s move.
Arguments in favour of legalised gambling
Those who are in favour maintain that illegal football gambling is widespread and rampant. Hundreds of millions, if not billions of ringgit, are placed in bets in what must be one of the largest black service industries. The industry is well run, with payments to winners almost guaranteed. With so much money driven underground, supporters of making football gambling legal argue that the government has foregone much revenue as a result of such illegal gambling. Since there is gambling anyway, it is better to operate it legally than to allow it be run illegally.
Some others assert that it is wrong for the government to play the role of moral policing by way of imposing its morals on the wants of the public. Most Malaysian adults, they further argue, are mature and should hence be left to make their own choices. Most, however, call for strict control and regulations to be imposed in order to restrict such betting to only non-Muslim adults. In fact, all discourage gambling, their call for legalising football betting notwithstanding.
Why I oppose legalising football gambling
I, however, oppose legalising football gambling.
Firstly, there is, of course, the moral argument. All religions oppose gambling. Even those who are not followers of any particular faith do not approve of gambling. It can therefore be safely said that there is universal disapproval of gambling, whether legal or illegal. It is generally regarded as a vice to be proscribed or banned.
Hence, it is nonsensical for some political leaders to say that gambling is part of Chinese culture. This is not true. Just because Chinese make up the bulk of punters in 4–D outlets, turf clubs and casinos, we cannot conclude that the Chinese community very much indulges in gambling. I dare say that the bulk of the Chinese, like those of other ethnic communities, disapprove and thus eschew gambling.
Secondly, legalising gambling will not do away with illegal gambling. Worse still, it makes betting even more convenient. This will result in gambling being even more widespread. Debts, including those from illegal loan sharks, will pile up, bringing much destruction to families and the larger society.
Thirdly, I find it hard to accept that the government should not interfere by banning football gambling. There are certain goods and services that are generally regarded as harmful to health or general well-being and are hence classified as socially undesirable. One obvious example is the taking of harmful illicit drugs. Hence their consumption has been banned by the government. Likewise, gambling should similarly be disallowed.
I therefore find it difficult to accept that the government is considering giving its official seal of approval by legalising football gambling.
Toh Kin Woon is an Aliran member