(written by: Willy Yanto Wijaya)
Gambling is one of controversial issues where both proponents as well as opponents have their own arguments. But before going further, first, how do we define gambling? This definition, as we will see later, if analyzed deeply will become quite blurred. For example, say if we buy a food product, and there is a campaign to ask consumers to send back the used package to the manufacturer where they will conduct a “lucky draw”, and for those lucky chosen consumers, cash prizes will be given. Do we consider this as gambling? Majority of us will not think so, because fundamentally we think that for the money we spent, we already got the food product as the benefit. On the matter of the cash prize, we view it rather as the company’s aspiration; say to share “gratitude” to loyal customers. But how if someone repeatedly bought the food products just in order to win the cash prizes? This behavior is already like the symptom of gambling, but still we most likely think that they are different, because unlike “common gambling” where one spends money and often gets nothing back, in this case one gets products as compensation.
And products as compensation? Of course, it can be money, other tangible goods, services or other abstract things. This is the point of argument. In the psychological point of view analyzing why people like gambling, several reasons to mention are that because people enjoy playing games (gambling), people love surprises and like to think whether or not they are lucky, and most people enjoy taking risks (where if successful, their brains reward them with natural drug-free high by releasing endorphins). In this perspective, we can say that actually people spend money (for gambling) and get “something” back as compensation. This is just like people spend money to watch horror movie in the cinema theaters.
So the problem lies in the cash prize reward? Again, there is a very interesting example. Based on Japan Criminal Code Chapter 23, except for ones endorsed by the government, all other forms of gambling are illegal. Pachinko is one of those legally-endorsed, but based on the law; the reward in the form of cash-prize is prohibited. Therefore, pachinko parlours usually reward winner with “product”, and this “product” can then be sold for cash. So essentially what’s so different between cash prize and other tangible goods?
Therefore, fundamentally analyzed, we cannot really separate gambling with other economy-driven activities. Philosophically, there is no real distinction line, and therefore, in my opinion, what is important is to mitigate the negative effects of these activities i.e. gambling, of which details are discussed in the following section “Instead of being Banned, Gambling should be Regulated”.
Instead of being Banned, Gambling should be Regulated
Gambling is as old as the human civilization itself. Since gambling can be done by two or more parties informally, it is almost impossible to really prevent gambling from being conducted. Therefore in my opinion, instead of being banned, gambling should be regulated.
In Tokyo, there was ever a discourse about opening a casino. But due to some opposition and worry from the public, the plan was cancelled (even though there are actually many illegal casinos run by yakuza). The worry is quite understandable, since there are many stories about people returning back from casino becoming poor, having lots of debts, and becoming financially crushed. But there are also stories about positive effects of casinos stimulating local economy and creating jobs.
I observed something interesting when I traveled from Vietnam to Cambodia. Entering Cambodia, I saw there are so many casinos. I guess those casinos are intended for Vietnamese from Ho Chi Minh City (which is just several hours away from Cambodian border) and the fact that casino or gambling must be prohibited in Vietnam. As I mentioned, people can always find some ways to gamble if they really want to do it. Gambling results in circulation of money, just as in other economic activities.
Establishing casinos or other official gambling activities can actually stimulate economy and give additional income to local government which can then use that money for social benefits. What really matters is actually how to prevent people from becoming gambling addicts or financially-destroyed due to gambling. Thus, regulations must be strictly established in those gambling spots. For example, people must show that they are financially-fit and can also spend maximum, say 20-30% of their wealth. Therefore someone losing certain amount of money must be stopped from playing. Another rule is that staffs at the gambling spot must act like a good bartender in the bar who does not allow customers to drink more if condition is not appropriate.
By implementing strict regulations, therefore such sad stories about people losing their future after coming out from casinos will not happen. On the other hand, some rich people can “donate” their money and have fun at the same time through gambling.