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Impose levy on those Malaysians who visit casino in Singapore

Johoreans exodus in droves to visit and gamble at down south casinos is not a small issue and start taking a toll on our economy. Besides ruining the harmonious family life for many gamblers, our country is losing a huge sum of foreign exchange for such unproductive activity which is detrimental to our economic health.

What Malaysian government can do about this “man-made” disease?

Indeed, there is no easy solution to control the exodus. It is very unlikely the Singapore government will impose a levy on Malaysians patronizing their casinos.

I suggest a quick fix measure for our government to consider, let impose RM300 levy per trip on Malaysians not working and studying in Singapore who make more than an outbound trip to Singapore in a month. Levy exemption can made for transport operators.

This measure is still flexible for other Malaysians who need to visit Singapore occasionally for various reasons.

Singapore government can impose a levy on her citizens for visiting their own casinos, there is no reason Malaysia cannot apply the same modified rule on her citizens.

The Johor dilemma

Translated by Adeline Lee

People outside Johor cannot truly comprehend how serious the problems caused by the casinos in Singapore can be.

Nowadays, dozens of buses packed with gamblers go there every day. On public holidays, the number of buses can even exceed a hundred.

Do not underestimate the negative impact on the local market caused by the mass exodus of these uncles and aunties going to the Lion City. The retail industry and restaurants in Johor Bharu have complained that their businesses have dropped by 20% to 30%.

Gambling also contributes to the increased activities of loan sharks. Some people lose all their savings and resort to borrowing from loan sharks. Some ultimately end up bankrupt, and some even have their families tore apart.

Non-governmental organizations, rather than the government, have become aware of the seriousness of this problem much earlier. As early as October this year, there has been a group of people who organized “stop gambling workshops” at my hometown in Kulai. And in just one month or so, they have processed over 10 cases of family breakdowns due to gambling.

A few days ago, Tang Nai Soon of Pekan Nenas raised this issue during a Johor state assembly sitting. And now, even the Prime Minister has expressed concern over the matter.

Yes, this problem is now serious enough to rouse the concerns of the government. But what is the use of concern if there is no action on it?

Should we legislative prohibition of gambling? But, even if there is such a law, once people go abroad, they are not bound by it. Moreover, we also have our own Genting. So how could we ban gambling? One of my Singaporean friends teased me so: “Your Genting has been opened for years, but the Singapore government has never restricted its people from going to gamble. So why is it that our casino has been opened for less than a year, and yet you have to ask your government to intervene?”

Tang Nai Soon put forward several recommendations at the State Assembly, including (1) requesting the Singapore government to allow Malaysians to prohibit family members from entering the casino; (2) demanding Malaysians to register before entering the casino; (3) restricting the number of times a Malaysian may enter the casino; (4) setting up a committee to advocate the harmful effects of gambling to the public; and (5) setting up a gambling counseling centre.

But, this is easier said than done for the first to the third recommendations, because the Singapore government had already made it clear right from the beginning that the two casinos had to make money from foreigners.

Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has warned his countrymen in this manner: “Let our foreign tourists play on the gambling tables and the slot machines. This is the only way to win for sure, because whether they win or lose, they must pay the gambling tax.”

Whether they are talents or gamblers, Singapore is out to grab. This is its survival strategy. If we think we can ask it to give up, then we are just dreaming.

As for the last two recommendations, they are indeed something we can and we should do. But no matter how effective education and advocacy can sound, as to how much effect it can achieve in reality, needless to say, we all know it.

No matter what we say, the most effective approach to stop gambling, is to convince the governments of both Singapore and Malaysia to shut down the casinos. However, this surely is the impossible dream.

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