Casinos, Social ills and Governance

There has been talk about the casinos ever since the Presidential Elections started heating up. This time, TOC’s post on Tan Kin Lian stirred up emotions again, and the arguments about casinos have not changed nor matured over the years. One would have thought opponents of the casino system be more hardworking at collating arguments and restructuring them to withstand the test of time.

This is what stirred the debate:

Tan Kin Lian: it is not the job of the government to stop Singaporeans from gambling at casinos.

As usual, many opinions were placed forward. Yes, even opinions that has nothing to do with the argument at hand, just mildly related to the topic of casinos.

In this post, I would just briefly touch on some of the arguments I have seen, and provide my opinion on those arguments.

1. Casino is a social ill
Opponents of the Casino system often talk about the social ills that come along with the casinos being built in Singapore. Supporters would then quote that there were already gambling ships available etc, but in my opinion, building one casino does increase the accessibility, thereby making it easier for some people to gamble; especially those that do not like to gamble aboard ships. However this then begs the question: “Does the benefits of the casino system outweigh the social ills?”. Opponents could possibly argue that “Any form of benefit is irrelevant as the social ills are a high cost to pay”, which does make sense. However a new question is this: “If we can come up with policies that eradicate or minimize such social ills, doesn’t that allow us to reap the benefits of the casino system without the harmful parts”? However at this moment nobody seemed to be arguing strongly that the current policies are inadequate, more seem to just be contented at arguing generally about the social ills.

Besides, midway throughout the discussion I note that someone mentioned how casinos have been around Macau for a long time, yet the citizens are not affected by it. I am not too sure how accurate this information is, but if it is true, we could strive to emulate it, thereby weakening the stance of the opponents.

2. Casino brings in jobs for foreigners, not Singaporeans
Now, unless we know people working inside, or have been into the casinos, most of us would not know anything about the situation, yet a huge proportion of people freely go around claiming that the casino only brings in jobs for foreigners. If the postings of a person in the discussion is to be believed (as she worked there), the casino does provide jobs for the people in the lower rungs (dealers etc) but the jobs in the higher rungs are left to the foreigners (managers etc). I won’t be too surprised that the foreigners occupy the managerial positions. I guess a study has to be done by the government to determine if the position was filled by a foreigner because no one else could occupy it. Since the casinos are a new addition to the Singapore landscape, it is not surprising that most of us do not have any relevant skills or experiences in managing casino operations. Hence I wouldn’t be surprised if the high management were all occupied by foreigners, as long as they had the relevant experiences.

3. Casinos are built using taxpayers money etc etc and hence it makes no sense to levy the $100 on citizens
To tell the truth, I always felt that the income tax in Singapore is quite low as compared to other countries like the United States. Calculating my income tax based on my starting salary always makes me feel happy that I am not contributing much money. The point is, most of us pay less tax than that in the form of income tax, and the amount of money is not enough to pay for basic services like policing, subsidizing of education for our children etc. Then I realize that since we pay so little tax, our tax is probably not used to built the casinos. These tax that are so abundant are from the ultra rich who earned a lot of money, or are buying properties and what have you not such that they pay much more tax than the rest of us. I know this point of view is not solid, but it just gives me this sense of perspective. Hence I won’t argue against casinos by riding on the taxpayer’s monies argument unless I pay so much tax that I feel gross injustice at the levy. Chances are, if I pay so much tax, $100 is negligible anyway.

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