Wednesday, January 07, 2009

No Money, Let's Throw It on the Dice

It was minus 12 degrees centigrade today and since this is the coldest weather I've experienced for a while, I thought I'd try to write something intelligent in order to make sure that the brain cells got used today rather than in some fictitious time in the future when cryogenics becames a very valid science.

Despite the chill, I had a pretty good day. Went down to Polike, my favourite gentleman's outfittter in Hamburg and managed to get a decent suit made of light Italian wool. Then it was tea with old neighbour who has over the years become the neighbourhood grandfather.

It's was delightful to see the old man, who is always warm and very generous with his good wishes. However, what struk me about this former family neighbour is the fact that, although he makes very little money, he loves visiting casinos.

Call me a little strange, nay just call me Un-Chinese but for the life of me, I'm still trying to find out the pleasure that people see in throwing away their money. There is, as they alway say, only one rule in gambling - "The House ALWAYS wins." This truism has been proved true wherever you goto in the world, whether you're at the glitziest tables in Monte Carlo or whether you're in the backstreets of Lorong 16.

So why the hell do supposedly sane and rational people spend their time in gambling establishments. I guess there are those who can afford to play in casinos and enjoy them. Fair enough, if you've been to Vegas, the casinos are great fun and if you can afford to lose a bit of money on fun, why not? Likewise with the lottery, if you want to throw away a buck or two, why not?

Then again, allot of people who end up being serious players often do it at great cost to their livlihood and allot of them are also gambling money on credit. I know a gentleman who once had the habit of borrowing money from dubious sources at a mere 20 percent a week so that he could buy lottery tickets. If that sounds daft to you, don't worry, you're not the only person to think so.

Apparently gambling causes a buzz. Winning at gambling is a fantastic feeling. However, anyone who observes games of chances will quickly realises that more often than not, you end up losing more than you win. In fact one has a higher chance of being struck by lightning than one has of winning a prize (a randome prize - not necessarily the sweep stakes) in a lottery. Or put it this way, I've only ever won two prizes in Ad Asia Pub night lucky draws since I started attending Pub Nite in 2004 (About 40 odd lucky draws).

Governments are of course very clever and in recent years governments across the USA and Europe have started running lotteries. The same people who bitch and moan about paying taxes are more than happy to spend the money on the lottery. This is true, even in "Puritanical" Singapore. Government raises GST and we bitch endlessly about how the rise in tax hits the poor the hardest. But then the poor will que up outside Singapore Pools to spend their GST asssistance cheques on the pools.

The latest "Miracle" boost for Singapore's economy is the construction of two casinos or if you want to use the politically correct term - "Integrated Resorts (IR)." The government went ahead to construct the two IRs despite vast opposition from the public. The government continues to peddle a vision of rich foreigners coming to throw away their money at our tables, while keeping out the social evils of gambling by chagring Singaporeans a hefty $100 entry fee into the casino.

It's a nice image, but its not going to work like that. Hopefully for the government, the forigners will come. But then again, forigners with money have plenty of options of where to gamble - Vegas, Atlantic City and Macao have an upper hand when it comes to attracting the high rollers - simply because they've been doing it for much longer.

So guess where a good chunk of the revenue will come from? No prizes, home sweet home. A determined gambler will find ways of paying off the $100 entry fee. After all if you think the roullette wheel can make you a couple of grand, what's a $100 for the night?

You can't blame the government for this. In fact you have to congratulate them for coming up with a means to make people want to give away money that they don't have. We really should find ways for people to volunteer to surrender their money to replace the taxes we hate paying.

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