Gaming or Gambling…non-issue in Sarawak Politics

Posted on April 7, 2011


Most adult males in Sarawak would know that yesterday was a significant day (based totally on my personal assumption).

Not Nomination Day, silly. It was Wednesday. Or more specifically, it was Draw Day.

For non-gamblers, Draw Day means that the three legal lottery operators in the State – Magnum, Sports Toto and Cash Sweep – would provide an opportunity for all highly optimistic Sarawakians to change their life.

The other significant days are Saturday and Sunday, and also the occasional Tuesday (which is known as the “Special” Draw).

Currently, the biggest prize on offer is a cash prize of more than RM45 million. That’s offered by Sports Toto.

Since I’m still posting this tonight, it’s quite safe to say I didn’t win it (not today, anyway!)

For punters from Malaya, their first experience in placing a bet at the three counters may offer quite a surprise because unlike in Malaya, Sarawak charges a 10% gambling tax.

That means a RM1 bet in Malaya would cost RM1.10 in Sarawak.

In Sabah, the same exercise would set you back RM1.15, as that state charges a gambling tax of 15%.

Because gambling/gaming is bad for the health of your wallet, Sabah and Sarawak decided to impose the sin tax.

For some reason, Malaya does not. With the exception of Kelantan, that is.

Kelantan, under the PAS government, has decided to go above and beyond the sin tax and ban all forms of gambling/gaming altogether.

Isn’t that a bit harsh, you may ask? Yes. Yes it is, but it will ensure that Muslims would not be able to gamble in the State.

But what about the rights of the non-Muslims to lose their money at games of chance, you may ask? Well, they can ask their friends in the other states to bet for them. Real trustworthy friends!

What’s does all this have to do with Sarawak, you may ask? Absolutely nothing, if you ask me.

Just because the opposition coalition by default (sometimes called Pakatan Rakyat) in Sarawak consists of PAS doesn’t mean that we will go the way of Kelantan.

Malaya-based DAP and PKR would not have a leg to stand on in Sarawak (and in other states, as well) if it supported its bedfellow PAS on this issue.

In fact, the Kota Sentosa incumbent from DAP has gone above and beyond the call of duty…and actually called for the sin tax to be abolished in Sarawak.

At the Federal level, this same State YB, who is the Bandar Kuching MP, has also called for the revenue from gambling/gaming to be channeled only to non-Muslims.

I don’t really get why he’s willing to abolish the sin tax in Sarawak and yet at Federal level he wants to use gambling/gaming revenue to help non-Muslims.

Maybe, he just wants to remain a populist.

But like I said before, the gambling/gaming issue is not really an issue in Sarawak.

Even if you ask PAS members and supporters in Sarawak, they’d tell you they have no problems about it in our state, where the majority are non-Muslims.

As for Malaya-based PKR, I’m not sure where they stand on the issue, but I’m sure they don’t want to upset Sarawak’s gamblers/gamers and in fact may even want to channel gambling/gaming revenue back to our gamblers/gamers.

Then again, I don’t think it would go down well with the Malay section of PKR’s supporters.

In other words, the opposition coalition of convenience will conveniently turn a blind eye towards the gambling/gaming issue in Sarawak. You just can’t remain a populist with this issue.

That’s why I said that gambling/gaming won’t be an issue this time around.

If it’s not going to be an issue why bother talking about it, you may ask?

Well, since it’s the season of spin here in Sarawak, I just thought it’s good to point out that one of the best spins the gambling industry ever came up with was to convince society to call gambling “gaming”.

Gaming sounds so much more harmless and acceptable, doesn’t it?

No issue at all.

How BERNAMA reported on an episode of the non-issue, as found on Sin Chew Daily’s online news portal My Sinchew:

PAS not backing down on gambling ban: Fatah

2011-03-23 17:26

RANTAU PANJANG, Wednesday 23 March 2011 (Bernama) — The Kelantan government’s move to review the ban on gambling does not mean that PAS is bowing to pressure from political ally DAP.

State Financial Planning, Economy and Welfare Committee deputy chairman Abdul Fatah Harun said it was only to determine jurisdiction of local government authorities in acting against selling of lottery tickets outside gambling premises.

“By-laws of local authorities clearly do not allow gambling activities in the premises of local government authorities as stated by the Local Government Act.

“As such, question of the state government bowing to pressure over the gambling ban does not arise,” he told Bernama here today.

Menteri Besar Datuk Nik Aziz Nik Mat had said he would ask the State Legal Adviser to review the ban on gambling in the state.

The DAP had asked the Kelantan PAS government to review the ban on gambling to stop erosion of Chinese support in the coming general election.

MySinchew 2011.03.23
How online news portal Malaysian Insider reported on an episode of the non-issue:

Selangor DAP tells PAS to stop anti-gaming talk

By Debra Chong
March 06, 2011

KUALA LUMPUR, March 6 — Selangor DAP chief Teresa Kok warned political ally PAS to stop pushing for all Pakatan Rakyat (PR) states to adopt Kelantan’s controversial gaming ban for fear of losing non-Muslim votes in the coming general election.

“If PAS pushes this further, it’s not going to help them win more Malay votes and it might cost them non-Malay votes,” she toldThe Malaysian Insidertoday.

Kok was weighing in behind DAP national chairman Karpal Singh who had yesterday criticised the Kelantan government for enforcing a state law which, he said, had denied the rights of its non-Muslim citizens.

Earlier today, PAS secretary-general, Datuk Mustafa Ali defended the ban, saying the Islamist state’s anti-gambling policy was for the well-being of all communities, not just Muslims.

Kok said while she broadly agreed with Mustafa that gambling was socially unhealthy, she stressed that it did not mean the rights of the non-Muslims should be compromised, which Kelantan appeared to be doing.

Echoing Karpal, Kok, who is a Selangor executive councillor and holds the investment, industry and trade portfolio in the country’s most developed state, suggested it was not prudent for the PR leadership to enforce such a sweeping policy.

“Last time, all Pakatan states came out in one voice to say we do not agree to have gambling in this country,” she said.

Kok was referring to opposition pact’s united stand denouncing the Cabinet for awarding a sports betting licence to a company linked to tycoon Tan Sri Vincent Tan, which became a hot topic during the Hulu Selangor parliamentary by-election last year.

But she stressed that the DAP did not agree with PAS this time to suddenly clamp down on all forms of betting, including the ones legalised under federal law.

She noted the growing unhappiness among the minority non-Muslim community in PAS-ruled Kelantan after state enforcers raided several shops in Kota Baru selling Big Sweep lottery tickets and fined its owners despite it being legal under federal laws.

Gambling is considered a haram activity and punishable under Muslim law.

PAS Youth chief Nasrudin Hassan sparked the debate with the secular DAP when he suggested that all PR states emulate Kelantan and ban all forms of gaming activities.

Other DAP leaders have also stepped forward to reject Nasrudin’s idea.

Lim Kit Siang, the secular party’s whip in Parliament, maintained PAS’s tough stand on betting was not part of the pact’s common policy and the three remaining PR states did not have to follow suit.

“The party’s position is that it is not common PR policy. What Karpal says reflects the party’s stand,” he told The Malaysian Insider today.

His son and Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng joined in the fray on the prickly subject that could affect the warming political ties between the two opposition parties.

“Penang does not agree with PAS Youth chief. He speaks not for us. The existing ones in Penang remain untouched. Only expansion of new forms of gambling like sports betting not allowed,” Guan Eng said in a text message to The Malaysian Insider today.

Guan Eng, who is also the DAP’s secretary-general, did not elaborate when asked why his party was dead set against the PAS proposal.

Posted in: DAP, PAS, PKR, Sarawak Politics