Touria Prayag's Blog

L’express Weekly, 13 August 2010

Posted in Uncategorized by touriaprayag on August 16, 2010

Click here to read L’express Weekly

Editorial

The minister of Finance’s declaration to the effect

that he plans to spend Rs. 2m on a national “responsible

gambling” programme to alleviate the

pain and misery caused by the gambling scourge

is commendable. Commendable not because there is hope

that it will achieve much, but simply because we are moving

away from the “couvrez ce sein que je ne saurais voir”

attitude to sober rethinking and the realization that the

gambling wildfire is having devastating effects on the most

vulnerable members of our community; those at the bottom

of the social pyramid. Casinos are also money launderers’

dream as the regulations on gambling do not require traceability

of funds. Here’s a good business idea for the drug

barons. Not that they are waiting for me to give them one.

The statistics tell a stunning story: Rs1,612 billion were collected

in 2009 in the form of taxes and other fees from various betting and

gambling activities. This figure has since increased by 26%! Gross up

this sum and you will begin to take stock of the amount of money involved:

we are not talking, here, about the innocuous occasional bingo

operated by charitable, religious and fraternal organizations. We are

talking about big, big money!

We do not wish to venture into the moral aspects of the issue but,

for the record, gambling is an old evil which goes as far back as ancient

Egypt. It is denounced in the Hindu code, the Koran and the

Talmudic law and the Church is unalterably opposed to any form of

it. The debate we wish to engage is about the social aspect of it and its

cost in human misery: addicted citizens reduced to utter destitution

and distress, domestic quarrels, violence, the breakdown of family

peace, parents neglecting their children, robbing their own families

and pawning whatever is left of their often meagre belongings in order

to indulge in chasing illusory, speculative and aleatory pecuniary gains.

Ask those women whose husbands gamble away the week’s groceries

or the children’s school material how they feel. Ask them how those

they have elected are protecting them.

What is perhaps worse is that while other kinds of activities having

such high familial and social costs would bring about legal punishment

and public denunciation, gambling is viewed with singular tolerance.

That’s due in part to our deep- seated adulation for, and infatuation

with, money, no matter what its source is.

Of course, outlawing gambling would only drive it underground

and while we are conscious that not everyone who indulges in speculation

is an irredeemable addict, bringing gambling to people’s doorstep

is rather playing the devil with it.

Apart from proximity, what helps gambling proliferate is undoubtedly

advertising. The gambling industry is dogged by accusations of

dirty tricks and dubious marketing techniques. Some of these advertising

techniques are used to drive up the youth gambling rate and

are very similar to, at times even surpass, those used by the tobacco

industry: both industries know that if you want to target teenagers,

you must act as if you were aiming older. Listen to an advertisement

like, “miner ek credi pa gagn drwa zwe” and show me one minor who

would not be tempted!

The gambling industry has reached a point where doing nothing

is no longer an option. A good starting point for the minister of Finance’s

“responsible gambling” programme might just be a ban on

all advertising of the activity and a re- examination of the regulatory

capacity of our institutions to allow them to deal with the possibility

of abuse and money laundering.

weekly@lexpress.mu

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