Say No To Gambling, Inter-Faith Groups Tell Sabah, Putrajaya

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JOINT LETTER TO ADDRESS THE PROBLEM OF MINI CASINOS IN SABAH

INTER-FAITH GROUPS COME AS ONE TO URGE THE SABAH STATE & FEDERAL GOVERNMENTS TO BAN MINI-CASINO OPERATIONS IN SABAH

Some of the signatories to the joint statement are seen in this photo above. The statement was made available to BorneoToday.

Members of the Muslim, Buddhist and Christian Communities here have come together as one, to urge both the Sabah and Federal governments to ban mini-casinos operations in Sabah.

The group issued a joint letter on the issue to the Prime Minister Tun Dr. Mahathir Bin Mohamad, YB Lim Guan Eng, the Federal Minister of Finance, TYT Yang di-Pertua Negeri Sabah Tun Datuk Seri Panglima Dr. Haji Juhar Bin Datuk Haji Mahiruddin and Chief Minister Datuk Seri Panglima Haji Mohd Shafie Bin Haji Apdal.

In the Joint Letter, the signatories voiced their concern on the negative effects of slot machine operations have on the social and economic health and well-being of the community. They reminded the government that under Pillar 5 of the Pakatan Harapan Manifesto, among others, the following promises were made:

a) Promise 52: Fight Crime and Social Ills.
b) Promise 53: Promote the Integrity of Family Institution and Neighbourliness.
c) Promise 55: To Increase the Space for and Diversify the Activities of Young People.

The Joint Letter states “With all due respect, the licences issued by the Federal Ministry of Finance for the operations of slot machines provide an anti-thesis to the above Promises. We speak on behalf of our members and the vast majority of our community. For all intents and purposes, we earnestly wish to highlight that any promotion of gambling activities without doubt will increase crime and social ills, disrupt family institutions and lure the young people to addiction and other vices.”

They voiced their unhappiness about the indiscriminate locations of the so called ‘Sports and Recreational Clubs’ which is the guise for slot machine operations, near to schools and housing areas around major cities throughout the State.

The sheer number of the slot machines available here has practically turned Sabah into a mini Las Vegas / Macau in Malaysia.

There have been countless of complaints from the community that these premises are also hotbeds for loan sharks, illegal drug trade and alcohol abuse. This situation has destroyed and is continuing to destroy the lives of countless of people in our community.

The family institution is at risk for those with members who have fallen into gambling addiction and consequently tied with debts with loan sharks, drugs and alcohol addictions. In the long run, this situation is putting the future of our beloved nation at risk.

“Over the years, there has been an increase in the number of bankruptcies caused by gambling especially slot machine related debts in Sabah. This have caused an increase in divorce cases. Many addicted gamblers have not only resorted to borrowing money from friends, family members and legitimate financial institutions but have become clients of vicious loan sharks.

We have witnessed too many marriages failed, hard earned money and properties lost, lives at risk, victims become suicidal and family destructions. Youth and children grow up in difficult homes and many inherit the addiction. It is a vicious cycle. The number of families in debt and reaping the consequences of gambling addiction now is troubling.

This is a very serious problem that has been plaguing our community and we plead the government’s intervention in this matter.

…Regretfully, even the Muslims are lured although Islam strictly forbids (haram) gambling. Both charging and paying interest (riba) for debts is forbidden (haram) in Islam. But due to the addiction to gambling too many of them are now avid habitual gamblers and threatened clients of loan sharks.

How long more shall we trade off on suicides, bankruptcies, divorces and other social costs for the revenue derived from licensing and taxes of gambling activities?”

The letter noted that the government have recently impose a hike in slot machine taxes from RM10,000 annually to RM50,000 and duties on profits made from these machines increased to 30 per cent from 20 per cent, however they doubt that this will deter gambling among the people.

Therefore, an increase in taxes on slot machines is not the way to solve the problem but to ban the operations completely.

The Joint Letter states “…with all due respect, we consider it immoral for the state or charities to raise money by exploiting people’s stupidity, greed, addiction and poverty. Taxing gambling is a regressive tax as the poor pay a greater proportion of their income in tax than the rich. This is because in reality, more poor people gamble compared to the rich. Regressive taxation is deeply unfair.”

The Joint Letter also questioned why it is so difficult for the government to ban slot machines in Sabah when it is possible in Sarawak. “…there are no slot machine operations in Sarawak and such facilities are banned in most states in West Malaysia. In Kuala Lumpur, clubs providing slot machines in their premises are subjected to very strict rules and regulations. For example, strict rules for entry into the premises and high minimum bets requirements must be fulfilled.

In Sabah however, the rules and regulations are loose with easy access and low minimum bets. Anyone eager to indulge themselves in gambling can enter at any time they wish. On top of that, they are permitted to operate near schools and housing estates, and we question why?”

It was highlighted that many quarters of society have repeatedly called for the government to act on this matter, but their pleas have fallen on deaf ears. It is time for the new government to take a tough stand on this issue and make an effort to transform the social and economic landscape of Sabah once and for all.

This JOINT LETTER WAS PURPORTEDLY SIGNED BY: –

THE COMMITTEE OF MASJID NURUL HIKMAH BUKIT PADANG;
THE SABAH COUNCIL OF CHURCHES (representing the denominational churches – Catholic Archdiocese of Kota Kinabalu, Anglican Diocese of Sabah, Sidang Injil Borneo, Basel Christian Church of Malaysia, Calvary Charismatic Centre, Grace Chapel Luyang, Sabah Baptist Association, Protestant Church in Sabah and Sabah Methodist Annual Conference as well as the NECF Commission on Sabah Affairs representing independent churches in Sabah);
SABAH INTERDENOMINATIONAL EDUCATION COMMITTEE;
PERSATUAN ALUMNI SEMINARI TEOLOGI SABAH (PASTS);
BUDDHIST FOUNDATION OF SABAH AND LABUAN F.T.;
KK TZER YING BUDDHIST TEMPLE;
KOTA KINABALU BUDDHIST CHE SZE LIM (PU TUO BUDDHIST TEMPLE);
SABAH BUDDHIST ASSOCIATION;
DHARMA PATRON GROUP;
KOTA KINABALU CHARITABLE FOUNDATION;
ALOKA HOUSE SABAH;
BUDDHIST MISSIONARY SOCIETY MALAYSIA, SABAH BRANCH;
THE YOUNG BUDDHIST ASSOCIATION OF MALAYSIA;
FO GUANG SHAN (MALAYSIA);
TAIWAN BUDDHIST TZU CHI FOUNDATION MALAYSIA;
SABAH FAMILY CARE ASSOCIATION, and
FAITH CARING HOME