14 February 2010
Singapore Casinos & Indonesian Gamblers...
It appears a good bet that some of the biggest and most consistent visitors to the new casinos opening in Singapore are going to be Indonesians. The Resorts World Sentosa is the first of two casinos to open its doors in Singapore. The casino is expected to be open today in order to capitalize on the celebrations surrounding the Chinese New Year. So, today is likely to be an interesting day for many punters as it might be a view into what sort of luck, or lack thereof, they are going to enjoy in the Year of the Tiger.
The second casino is the Marina Bay Sands which is affiliates with the Sands casinos out of Las Vegas. The Sands is not expected to open until April 2010, which means the Sentosa is certainly going to enjoy a bit of a head start.
It would be fair to say that it is not only going to be Indonesians of Chinese ancestry that may partake in a hand or two of Blackjack and Baccarat or a couple of rounds at the Roulette table, there is an expectation that Indonesians of all faiths and types of ancestry will take the plunge and part with some of their fortune in search of new fortunes. This is expected to include those of the Muslim faith.
Singapore is a prime destination for many Indonesians. It is close, and it remains a shopping mecca (this is in spite of the numerous malls and branded stores already in Jakarta) for the well-to-do Indonesians looking to spend a weekend away. The casinos provide a little something extra, for those who have shopped themselves out during the day, to do in the evening. Nothing like glamming it up and hitting the casinos and spending up big.
However, it might be worth mentioning that there are thousands (perhaps tens of thousands?) of Indonesian maids working in Singapore. A wander down Orchard Road on a Sunday afternoon is like taking a walk on a busy Indonesian street on any day of the week in that one hears a steady stream of Indonesian and local dialects such as Sundanese, Javanese, and some Batak thrown into the mix. The point being, will any of these maids be tempted to win their fortune by gambling their meager incomes on the flip of a card or the spin of a wheel?
The temptation of winning the "big one" is quite often too much temptation for some to bear. So, is it a fair question to ponder, has the Singaporean government put into place mechanisms to deal with not only the increased revenue they are expecting the casinos to generate, but also mechanisms to deal with the social problems that are going to arise as they relate to problem gambling?
Perhaps Draconian police measures are not going to be enough to keep crime rates down. Any increase in crime is going to make Singapore a less attractive place to visit. The reality is (or at least was) that I enjoyed going to Singapore for no other reason than it was sometimes nice to get a little respite from the chaos and pollution of Jakarta, and it was always nice to be able to walk down the road, in this case Orchard Road, late in the evening and feel safe as houses.
But, the 'interesting' point of the expected influx of Indonesians to the gambling tables of Singapore is that many of these gamblers are likely to be Muslims. Gambling is expressly forbidden in Islam. So, to engage in it would be somewhat sinful, particularly if one was doing it with the full knowledge that it was sinful. This has been the primary deterrent in legislating for a casino to be built in the Thousand Islands area off the coast of Jakarta; the sinfulness of gambling.
It is too bad that money from gambling is haram because the increased revenue that would most likely be generated from a casino in Jakarta could be used to offset the social problems that allowing gambling would create, but also direct some much needed funding to education and health programs to ensure that "all" Indonesians had access to some basic facilities (naive, maybe; but what has been put into place to date is not working, and has not worked, so what is there to lose?).
The combined intellect of the Majelis Ulama Indonesia (Indonesian Ulema Council / MUI) has stated that to gamble is to sin. Gambling is expressly forbidden in Islam (and in Indonesian law) so any Indonesian Muslim would be in a spot of bother in Indonesia. However, Amidhan of the MUI, has offered up that the MUI is only concerned with Indonesian Muslims gambling in Indonesia because what Indonesian Muslims do while they are abroad is beyond the MUI's control. I guess this means that any Indonesian Muslim that gambles abroad answers directly to Allah and no longer to the MUI?
The casinos are not just casinos, but rather full-service fun, entertainment, and business venues that can cater to a broad range of interests and needs. The idea seemingly being that "you" can hold a business conference there, and there just happens to be a casino close by for punters to partake in their hobbies during the non-business related sessions of their trip. The Sentosa includes a theme park which makes it a family-oriented weekend away (or as the cynics have suggested - somewhere to dump the kids while mum and dad go and spend the kids' inheritance).
Singapore hopes that the imminent opening of the casinos will be a shot in the arm for recently dwindling tourist arrivals in the city state. Time will tell!