Migrant Workers And Gambling

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By: B Goode

Pursuant (I love this word because it makes anyone using it sound intelligent) to my article on migrant workers and alcoholism, I hereby tender another article about our horde of foreign workers who have helped to build our nation.

If you are wondering why I sound legalistic it is because I have been researching about the sub-judice thinghy. The last thing I want is to be hauled up by the Police for writing about a disease that causes the yellowing of the skin.

Anyway, a few days back, I attended a Hari Raya luncheon hosted by my rich tauke friend who owns a small construction firm to honour his Muslim workers. I was seated at a table together with his migrant workers from Bangladesh and India.

During the course of the luncheon, a few topics cropped up; their working/living conditions, their wages, political views, sex lives and whatevernots.

One of the topics that perked my interest was gambling. It all began because one of them had asked about one of their missing colleagues. He was told by the others that he couldn’t make it for the luncheon because he had gone to gamble in the casino.

From what I’ve gathered, increasingly migrant workers have been flocking to the casinos. They were not there for the free drinks and snacks although they’d like you to believe that was the case. They were there to gamble. Duh!

And apparently some of them are so addicted to it that they are deeply in debt and thus having to endure all the negative side-effects of problem gambling.

My concern is this. Why are migrant workers, most of whom are already in debt before they even stepped into our shores allowed to enter the casinos freely?

If the government had found it prudent to restrict access to Singaporeans to prevent problem gambling, why were migrant workers whose salaries were barely enough to cover their daily expenses not protected from the same risk?

It is about time that the government make a study about the effects of the casinos on migrant workers. As I was told, some of them had stopped sending money back to their country to pay the instalment for their agent fees and other debts. As a result a few had absconded after their contracts were completed because they couldn’t face the creditors back home.

Restricting migrant workers’ access into the casinos should be seen as a part of the holistic approach towards better welfare for them. We have provided them with comfortable living arrangement, with legal protection, with safe working conditions and we should now include protection against problem gambling as well.

Some of the ways would be to block access to all work permit holders or to impose $100 entry fees.

At the end of the day, there is no reason whatsoever for migrant workers to enter the casinos. It is not for relaxation, and the free drinks and snacks to be honest are really not that great.

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