Ban on slot machines won’t solve Sabah’s gambling problem, says ex-CM

Former Sabah chief minister Yong Teck Lee (centre) holding an anti-gambling pamphlet at the SAPP office.

KOTA KINABALU: Former chief minister Yong Teck Lee warned that a total ban on all licensed slot machines will only encourage illegal slot machine operators if the government failed to plan what to do about the overall gambling problem in Sabah.

Speaking to reporters here today, Yong, who is also the Sabah Progressive Party (SAPP) president, said the government should consider the possibility that these illegal operators are waiting to pounce and fill the vacuum left by the licensed slot machine operators.

Furthermore, the long-time anti-gambling advocate also urged the government to not only close the licensed slot machines, but also other forms of gambling such as the 4-D outlets, illegal betting, slot machines and online gaming in cyber cafes and elsewhere.

“Social ills from illegal gambling are worse than licensed gambling.

“It is not about revenue loss suffered by the government or the loss of jobs.

“These gambling syndicates and criminal gangs will take advantage of the situation once the licensed slot machines stop operating,” he said.

Yong lamented that the current government had time and again acted without any clear direction, leaving lots of room for doubt.

He said in 2004, SAPP’s social agenda bureau had published its research on the gambling menace in Sabah.

Among the recommendations were intensifying law enforcement against illegal gambling, introducing educational programmes on the risks of gambling and setting up professional centres to counsel and treat pathological and habitual gamblers.

The bureau also recommended that the government conduct social and economic impact analysis of gambling activities and strengthen anti-gambling laws.

“It would not hurt to have mandatory warning signs against gambling at all licensed gambling centres, similar to the health warning labels on cigarette packets,” he said.

Other than that, Yong pointed out that currently, the social ills have exacerbated thanks to online gambling using credit cards.

Many of these gamblers, he said, would choose to use credit or even borrow money to satisfy their compulsion.

“Therefore, the government must employ its resources, such as under the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC), to block online gaming sites. Other countries have done this,” he said.

Last week, Deputy Chief Minister Jaujan Sambakong announced that Sabah will stop issuing trade licences to establishments with slot machines once their current licences expire.

“If the establishments’ trading licences expire end of this year, we will not renew their trading licences after that.

“The decision is final,” Jaujan, who is also the state local government and housing minister, said.