Monday, June 12, 2017

Chinese & gambling

In the Star Online, Wong Chun Wai wrote Earn your money the right way (extracts):

Aa a Penangite, I am always asked by my colleagues and friends in the Klang Valley why is it that most get-rich-quick schemes are located in the island state and the investors mostly its citizens.

I have asked that same question myself, since I’ve heard enough stories of relatives and friends who have been entangled in this web of financial crookery.

It’s not something new. It used to be called the pyramid scheme and Ponzi but, like most, it is just another scam. The new term is ‘money game’ and it’s probably called this to warn new participants that there will be winners and losers, like in any other game.

However, no one is listening because most people are merely interested in the quick returns from their investments.

There are some reasons why Penang lang (Hokkien for people) have warmed up to these quick-rich con jobs.

Penang is a predominantly Chinese state and rightly or wrongly, the appetite for risk there is higher. Some may dismiss risk as a euphemism for gambling, but the bottom line is, many of its denizens are prepared to roll the dice.

Given that there are so few police reports lodged against operators, despite the huge number of investors, indicates the readiness of these players to try their luck.
They clearly are aware of the element of risk involved when they lay their money down, but the huge returns override any rational thinking. No risk, no gain, they probably tell themselves.

Chun Wai has been right that Chinese love gambling, always believing foolishly they have invincible luck, wakakaka.

Anyway, in 'happier' days (2010), wakakaka, I once wrote an article about gambling (or gaming) for CPI (Centre for Policy Initiatives) titled .

My article went as follows, showing the innate but foolish gambling streak in Chinese (and to an extent, Indians as well):

It is said that in both good and bad times, two professions always flourish – the accountant and the undertaker.

But there is a third, seldom mentioned profession which is even more versatile especially when times become worse. We are talking about those in the gambling industry, i.e. operators of casino, lotteries (both legal and illegal) and bookies.

The issue of gambling and its social outcome is even more germane today with Singapore opening two casinos on Pulau Sentosa. In the past we saw Singapore gamblers flocking to Genting Highlands but now we may expect the lemming-like migration of avid punters in the other direction. And regardless of which country’s casino attracts more clients, the winner would still be the same member of the triad of evergreen professions.

The lucrative gambling or, more correctly, gaming industry is virtually a rich goldmine with an endless lode for the owners and investors. One such is Ascot Sports, owned by tycoon Vincent Tan.

Even Ibrahim Ali – the “Malay warrior" heading the super-nationalist NGO Perkasa (and presumably a staunch Muslim) has had to fend off allegations that he own shares in Ascot. [CPI note: Ibrahim has denied the allegations and wants the PKR MP Saifuddin who raised the issue in Parliament to be referred to the special committee on rights and privileges.]

But at the other end of the spectrum, for the poor or financially desperate, gambling represents a shortcut to riches.

Fantasized formula for instant wealth

Despite the almost impossible odds of winning, say, a lottery, each punter continues to imagine he or she will be the lucky one.

Recent headlines in local newspapers haven’t helped when they informed us that the 4-D lotteries offered a jackpot of RM10 million or that a Chinese national won $1.5 million dollars at the opening of the Singapore casino. Unfortunately, such selective news, focussing only on the odd occasional winners minus a balanced coverage on the more regular losing majority, would only inflame the fantasy of gamblers.

In an interesting book by Dr Desmond Lam titled ‘The World of Chinese Gambling’ (2009), he identified Chinese as the ethnic group with the highest risk-seeking behaviour in gambling.

I bought it in a Macau casino, wakakaka 

Among many factors contributing to the gambling problems of the Chinese, he attributed their superstitious beliefs as a major influence and consequently their unwarranted conviction that they could exercise control over the gambling outcomes.

We all too often see this pattern of behaviour in our local Chinese seeking divine or supernatural help from every nook, crook and corner for, what Penangites would term as, chun-chun see ay jee (the correct 4 numbers) for a win.

An urban legend on such supernatural assistance originated in the mid 1950s of three men visiting Penang’s Batu Lanchang cemetery to invoke the ghost of a woman for numbers. At the heart of this deliciously occult story was the information that the woman died during childbirth and was buried with the stillborn baby. The midnight adventure was spiced up with the usual paraphernalia of blood of a cockerel and a bamboo stake.

As the tale went, for some unexplained reason, the ghost had to go ‘somewhere’ unaccompanied to seek the numbers so she had to leave the corpse (or ghost) of her child in their care. Only one man was brave enough to remain behind to accommodate her instructions and of course he was the one to benefit from her eventual revelation.

Side-note: For more, see my post in Kongsamkok titled Midnight at Batu Lanchang, wakakaka.

As the Italians would say ‘se non è vero, è ben trovato’, meaning “if it’s not true, it’s a good story nonetheless". It’s that sort of legend that has thrilled and given hope to many obsessed gamblers even till today.

Desperate men, desperate measures

But such superstitious reliance on the occult has not been confined to the Chinese. About 10 years ago, local news reported that a group of Indian men wanted to obtain the winning 4-digit numbers from the Goddess Kali. Apparently their imploration was accompanied by the ultimate votive offering, where an American woman, Carolyn Janice Ahmad, was murdered as a blood sacrifice.

There was another reported case of a young Indian boy sacrificed for similar reason through the gruesome act of decapitation. The extent to which some desperate gamblers would go is a chilling thought.

A pathological gambler is one who just cannot stop gambling. I bet (pun not intended) most of us have witnessed or even personally know such a creature.

In Australia, some ‘Vietnamese’ have been notorious for leaving their children in cars for hours while they gambled away in nearby casinos. The usual case would tell us of the parents “just popping into the casino for a few minutes to merely see what’s going on" (so they rationalised to themselves) but alas, they soon became so immersed, engrossed and obsessed with the blackjack, baccarat, roulette and one-arm bandits that they would completely forget they had left their small children locked in their parked cars.

There were more than a couple of cases where police were forced to break into the cars to rescue those traumatised children. And guess what, the ‘Vietnamese’ (or ‘Cambodians’ or ‘Laotians’) culprits were in the majority ethnic Chinese.

Dr Lam wrote that surveys (conducted in different years in different Chinese-majority countries) showed that Hong Kong suffered most from gambling fever, with 6.5% of its population having probable gambling problems, of which 2.7% of them were probable pathological cases. Macau came second with 4.2%. No survey was carried out for China or Malaysia, but Singapore has 1.4% of its Chinese population as probable pathological gamblers.

It is unfortunate that Chinese, and many Malaysians, including Indians and Malays, consider gambling addicts as society’s embarrassing black sheep and thus a social problem, when the truth is these pathological gamblers suffer from mental sickness. Unless this illness is recognised, the correct treatment would not be prescribed.

How to curb gambling

Making visitors to casinos pay a non-refundable entrance fee is not going to stop the problem gamblers.
However, some regulatory measures may ameliorate their obsessed involvement, such as prohibiting the placement of ATM machines at gambling facilities. But we can expect the ingenuity of the casinos to circumvent any such regulations; a recent Singapore news report indicated that though the ATM machines may not be within the premises, these ‘coincidentally’ would be just immediately outside or very nearby.

Regulations should also prohibit the use of credit cards to withdraw cash at gambling establishments, and require a register of local visitors to casinos to identify potential pathological gamblers, and in some instances to serve as early warnings to probably crimes of embezzlements, theft or even treason (for monetary rewards).

Dr Lam showed a case of embezzlement by a mainland Chinese official to settle gambling debts with a number of Macau casinos. He was a former branch director of the post office bureau of Lanshi town in Foushan, Guangdong province who pilfered nearly RMB 1.8 billion (US$ 238 million) from 352 accounts in the postal saving bank.

Thus it is a mental sickness which has to be dealt with through the support of medical-psychology experts. The government should either provide funding for, or tax casinos into funding public clinics to address the mental health needs of pathological gamblers. Maybe an NGO support group a la ‘Anonymous Gamblers’ would now be most timely.

Pathological gambling is an insidious disease far more threatening than AIDS as we tend to be more lenient and accepting of its presence within our midst even though its drastic effects and consequences on the innocents, especially the families of the gamblers, have been known to be far worse.


  1. Researchers at a university with Very High QS rankings (up to you to assess their credibility...wakakaka...) have found that there is such a thing as a "Gambling Gene"....

    To be precise, there is a part of the brain that influences a combination of Risk Taking activity and Addiction to the Pleasure from taking such risks.

    And how well developed that part of the brain is partly determined from birth from genetic factors.

    Controversially, the research identified that many of those of Chinese descent have such well-developed part of the brain.

    The British , without realising it , tapped into this when they sold Opium to the Chinese to pay for Tea. At the same time setting up Gambling Dens. More than a century before such research findings, the Brits already understood the Chinese "Achilles Heel".
    The Resorts World Lim family in Malaysia have become experts at stimulating such demand.

    The good news much of other human behaviour, it can be influenced towards different directions by life experiences, education, self-discipline and family/social pressure.

    Nobody needs to be a prisoner of their birth and genes.

    1. I wrote above that the Chinese attributed their superstitious beliefs as a major influence and consequently their unwarranted conviction that they could exercise control over the gambling outcomes.

      How was that related to opium?

    2. The research was conducted by a highly ranked QS rating university. They were doing Hard Science with fancy equipment.
      Live Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)scans of the human brain , with serious punters experiencing their "Gambler's High" showed parts of the brain reacting the same way as a heroin addict having their drug-induced "high".
      So , in terms of physical brain function, a gambling addict goes through an almost identical reaction as a heroin or opium addict.

      Now, research into the influence of superstitious beliefs on human behaviour is likely considered Low-Brow. An elite QS Ranking university wouldn't touch it.

      Perhaps more appropriate for the likes of Bolehland's very modestly ranked UUM or UNIMAP to pick up for their research thesis.
      Didn't somebody do a research project on Bomoh practices in Malay culture ?

    3. Dr Lam's take of

      "the Chinese attributed their superstitious beliefs as a major influence and consequently their unwarranted conviction that they could exercise control over the gambling outcomes."

      is a pure conjecture of double negations!

      If one believes in supernatural then one CANNOT exercises control over events deem to be controlled by the supernatural!!!!

      Begging for luck/fortune in gambling from the supernatural IS nagated by that unwarranted conviction that they could exercise control over the gambling outcomes.

      If one can exercises control over any outcomes via a super being, then what is the role of a "super being"?

      Wakakakaka..super being can be controlled by mortal being le! How super is that???

      So, how??

      Then, how is gambling related to superstitious as in unwarranted conviction that they could exercise control?????

      At most those superstitious beliefs r just tool of fools to highten the appetites of risk taking ONLY!

      There is zero unwarranted conviction of control for outcome le !!!

    4. their superstitious beliefs could involve "bribing" the supernatural Ones, allowing them (the gamblers) to control the odds, that's what the statement meant.

      Chinese believers of folk religion such as datok-kongs are good at "bribing" the occult, wakakaka

    5. Again, if the supernatural ones could be bribed, then that implies that there r events/things that the supernatural ones COULD NOT control!

      How super is that "super" le???

      Crass vileness of the nth kind, perhaps???

    6. CK talking cock for the sake of talking cock, wakakaka

    7. How about talking cock to dispute a viled cockagroo???

      Wakakakaka... claimed atheist who is justifying gambling using religion!!!

    8. superstitious belief a religion, wakakaka, but on 2nd thoughts you could be right as all religious beliefs could be considered superstitious beliefs, wakakaka again

    9. 2x5 mah.

      Now, u faham betulx2 leia eh!!


  2. Gambling is a habit
    It doesn't come from our DNA
    Risks are what we learned
    Through the generations

    Every one wants the jackpot
    The millions that come with it
    You spend some cash
    Hoping the right numbers appear

    As with all businesses
    There are the risks and failures
    The gaming lottery is lucrative venture
    There is only one winner in every draw

    Many will go in to buy
    Try their luck or their calculations
    Believing there will be a lady luck
    In this motto “No venture no gain”

    If they don't play
    They can't dream
    Of the pleasures of a life
    Enjoying the fruits in winning

    All gamblers must practise self control
    Do not gamble beyond what they earned
    It will spell trouble going downhill
    The short cut to riches is a long time arriving

  3. God has given u 'hidayah' or 'guidance' to see what is good is good and what is bad is bad..and u can see bad in gambling..tick the 1st box...the next level is 'taufik' or 'successfully being guided' but some will be just left astray.
    Those who embraced 'taufik' submit themselves to what has God preordained. In this case...avoid and ban gambling all together.
    Those who left astray will rely on self control delusion, banning ATM, bla bla bla. In the end over the course of many chinese centuries...the same ol issues keep coming back..bigger and badder. Dun worry..there will be new experts advising u new ways...guidelines...bla bla...but ask urself sincerely...who is the real expert advice...stick to OEM advise.

    1. There is an age old argument for what u have just said.

      Q - If god is so omipresent & powerful, WHY r there evil deeds & sufferings happened under his/her/it guides?

      The crassly answer given by the Abrahamic faith is

      Free will!

      Then, the argument becomes an endless loop of dog-chasing-the-tail logic of god-creates-man-then-who-creates-god!!!

      How OEM is that le????

      Ohh.. BTW... CinaBengs like to gamble big. Bet u guys NEVER been to a invited only poker game of BIG stake. Only then u would keep yr profiling to yr underpants le!!!

      It's ALL risk taking mah!

    2. most (though not all) religions do NOT permit free will, FULL stop

    3. Hahaha... What a day!!!!!

      Most religions do NOY permit free will, FULL stop.????

      Ehhh... what's yr take on the Abrahamic cults explanation for a being created under the image of the ONE & yet continuously going against HIS/HER/IT'S dogmas le???

      Oooop.. perhaps, these Abrahamic Faiths ain't no religion outfits​ buy a big cosmic cosplays, ye??

      A STOP that's full of holes le!!!

    4. Man created god in his (man's) image, wakakaka

  4. Lets be clear, the Pyramid schemes are criminal fraud. The likely end is either the scheme collapses under its own weight when it inevitably fails to pull in sufficient funds to keep paying the earlier joiners, or the organisers behind the scheme pocket their gains and Disappear.
    Along the way some may make some gains, many others will lose even their principal.

    It is a mistake to confuse them with true games of chance.

    All forms of gambling are forbidden in Islam. With good reason. Once you let Satan into the room, there is no end to the mischief , damage and injury caused, both the gambler himself, their loved ones and other around them.

    I do not engage in gambling - any use of real money in games of chance with intention for gain. But I do appreciate the fun of card games. Personally, I'm fine with games containing elements of skill, experience and judgement such as many card games and mah-jong, as long as you don't play for material gain.

    In addition, there are other forms of gambling where the odds of winning are random and impersonal. This holds true even when the chance of winning is very small. Slot machines, roulette , rolling dice, most regulated lotteries.

    Where it gets into criminal territory is where someone or group has rigged the set up so that they can simply walk away with the money at some point.

    That is also the fallacy of the mentality of those who take part in pyramid schemes. It is not gambling. It is fraud.

    1. "All forms of gambling are forbidden in Islam."


      God – there is no deity except Him, the Ever-Living, the Sustainer of [all] existence. Neither drowsiness overtakes Him nor sleep. To Him belongs whatever is in the heavens and whatever is on the earth. Who is it that can intercede with Him except by His permission? He knows what is [presently] before them and what will be after them, and they encompass not a thing of His knowledge except for what He wills. His Throne extends over the heavens and the earth, and their preservation tires Him not. And He is the Most High, the Most Great. (2:255)

      Thus, the above implies

      Islam teaches that in order for us to freely perform in the test of life, He has given us free will to lead our lives as we wish, but the outcome of each of our actions is governed by the will of God. If God does not will for something to take place, it will not happen no matter how hard we try. And if He wills for something to occur, it will transpire no matter what we do to stop it.

      Which eventually leads to the unavoidable answer of yr god is taking a "gambling" chance himself to allow for free willingness in humanity le?

      Mana "All forms of gambling are forbidden in Islam."?

      When yr ultimate judge IS engaging in similar activity?

      Is it the case of do-what-I-say-&-dont-do-what-I-do????

    2. I wonder whether the following were gambling:

      a. Forex
      b. Maminco


    3. Tambah Islam banking of "profit sharing" gimmicks.


  5. No...neither Forex nor Commodities trading amount to gambling. It is more like a high risk/high reward business venture.

    There Is a great deal knowledge, experience, skill, acumen and savvy behind it. There are multi-millionaire and even billionaire Forex and Commodity investors who can vouch for that.

    Of course it involves high risk and uncertainty as well as evaluations of probabilities.
    There are also plenty who lose their shirt and pants along the way.
    It is not wise to risk government money on such ventures.

    1. Currency/commodity speculation is an art of investment in the hands of knowledgeable players.

      It's an important FORM of financial tool for fiscal management for large corporations & countries.

      However, it turns into a form of chance tossing, ie gambling, for non-experts, thinking they can "bribe" the supernatural Ones, allowing them (the gamblers) to control the odds!

      So, were forex, Maminco debacles a form of gambling?

      Depends on who's playing lah.

      Client trades through trading floor consultants. Thus, mamak & his gangs COULD not get involved directly due to trading floor requirements.

      The duty bounded consultants give trading advices, & whether the clients follow or not that's another story.

      In the face of massive losses, if the client still persists to continue betting against the odds, then the client is ONLY a moron with money to lose!

      Perhaps the CON-sultants involved could have played their cheating tricks too, as winning or losing, they still get their cuts.

      Long story short, it's an ingenious contrivance to TOTALLY blame mamak for the Forex & Maminco debacles!

      There could be elements of cheating, ignorance, gambling & AOBs(any other businesses) involved that outsiders can ONLY speculate (wakakakaka.. gambling again anyone) le.

  6. Thank you, a very interesting and thought-provoking read. Appreciated.