Gambling entails playing for money and engaging in wild financial speculations. It ranges from school raffles to betting in horse-racing and casinos. It brings thrill and excitement as there is always the element of chance or luck. Nowadays, with consumerism, gambling transcends all barriers: many get caught into its web and ruin their professional lives. White-collar job holders have lost their jobs when they swindle away money for gambling. Even secondary school children are prone to gambling and have their pocket-money swallowed by it.
Gambling is reckoned as evil. It is ill-gotten money and is condemned by all religions. Society frowns on it. It robs us of the comforts of life and becomes a damaging obsession. Families are broken, wives and children battered. Many gamblers finding themselves in irretrievable debts prefer to commit suicide. Money becomes the new god and the gambling universe is merciless. Gangsters and thugs are hired to force money out of fellow gamblers who have lost and who fail to repay their debts promptly. Amazingly even credit facilities are given in horse-racing bets. Friends become bitter enemies. Every week during the horse-racing season, millions of rupees change hands at Champ-de-Mars (the temple of gamblers). Tax-evaders buy star-prize lottery tickets to launder their money through the circuit of gambling.
Gambling is motivated by human avarice, the desire to earn other people's money with as little effort as possible. Hard-earned salaries evaporate into thin air. Inveterate gamblers forego the basic necessities of life and gambling becomes the be-all and end-all of their lives. The poorer we are, the more tempted we would be to get easy money. Once we get entangled with beginner's luck, we get stuck in the moving sand. Obsessive gambling catches hold of us and we stop enjoying life. We live and die for gambling. The obsessive gambler is always the loser and he is robbed of his faculty of reasoning in his thirst to recover the money lost. Estates and fortunes would vanish, in a matter of seconds, infected with the gambling virus.
From Macao to Monaco and Las Vegas, the fever grips gamblers surrounded by sexy croupiers in a cloud of smoke and cosy atmosphere electrified by dim lighting. Whisky and soft drinks are offered free of charge. Stanley Ho, the Macao casino big boss, has amassed a colossal fortune in gambling in his lucrative casinos. Gambling has spread its tentacles everywhere, even in elections. Bookmakers organise bets on political parties running for elections. Football has not escaped the influence of betting. Every week pool houses are crammed with gamblers in search of fortune. When betting creeps in, it spoils the spirit of the game. Football players do not give the best of themselves. Many football scandals have been unveiled in the past. In remote villages a few have been caught and sued for clandestine betting on horse-racing.
Buying lottery tickets is also a form of gambling but much milder. The annual craze for lottery tickets in December is a clear indication of how people dream of becoming multi-millionaires. A few rupees set aside can change our fate. So long as gambling is done with moderation, it is harmless. But the trouble with most people is that they start off with a few rupees and end up in colossal debts. It becomes a vice. Some people refrain from gambling because they feel that it is morally wrong to risk money that has been earned by hard work. No government in the world will try to abolish gambling in spite of the innumerable harms it causes as it brings in a huge sum to the coffers of the Exchequer.
Philip Li Ching Hum