Sunday, April 17, 2005

Excuse me, but what's it worth?

"Debates", being a debater of sorts, the word has always dawned upon me with notions of feisty cross-fires, salient points, logical arguments, cohesive cases, all topped up with irresistibly comprehensive statistics, analysis and cases of precedence. Yet as importantly, we debate to come to a more informed conclusion of a matter that does not appear to have a straight answer. What was sorely lacking in all our discussions on legalising casinos was a a strong, well-articulated and comprehensive opposition voice - knowing that we debate a forgone conclusion, do we tend to down play our negative sentiments and inhibitions towards a legalize gambling penthouse(make that plural...) by reassuring ourselves that the government "knows-better"?

I'm loving it
Our political machination of propaganda is quite an applaudable device that is appealingly democratic yet amazingly iron-fisted. How I love it when I see a new issue of debate in the horizon. How our favourite tabloids, broadcasting networks, talk shows and papers start a trail of fact reporting, surveys, discussions(no matter how inappropriate the panel of experts, nor how inadequately prepared they seemed and how the discussion would somehow degenerate into the travail, leaving people no better then when they begun). How ministers have a gift of speaking in a coherent voice (a remarkable work that can only point to a single author) and commencing off in neutrality yet eventually swaying towards reluctance to the inevitable and of course finally embracing it. I love it because of the uncanny semblance to watching Vanna White sashaying across a board of lit rectangles, each time revealing more letters to the phrase, each moment trying to solve the puzzle - all that elaborate PR and Corporate Communications to serve us the answer that had already been decided. So much for my love of the ingenuinity that went into it.

For the love of God, pls dun!
When MM Lee said that he was personally opposed to gambling but Singapore could no longer afford not to have a casino, he seemed pretty convinced (but so was he when he thought that graduates would have brighter babies and should give birth to as many as they could while lower-education families should just stop at 2 in the late '70s, not withstanding the statistical majority of successful men and women from lower-education homes).

My point being, are you convinced that Singapore would "crash-and-burn" without a casino? (i'm not) Looking at the established gambling havens of Las Vegas and Macau, one can't help but wonder how Las Vegas got it's catchy name of "Sin City" nor how Macau is reknown for it's triads and illicit money laundering activities that have links with the casinos. Surely, we have better security, tighter laws and less corrupt government that wouldn't turn us into another Macau. Vegas with all it's affluence, resources and experience in dealing with casino related crimes is still considered a hot spot of opportunity for organised crime, ranging from drugs, prostitution, loan sharking, illegal gambling(so much for the argument for legalising gambling to kill illegal gambling) to extortion. Violent crime is the most predominantly impactful crime in Vegas given the nature of them.(Vegas has new crime element: Israeli mob )
I truly am clueless, what gives the government or people confidence that they'll be able to control crime from a casino(much less 2) given the extensive experience that world leading casino cities have had with casino related crimes and are still strugglling with. It does seem that we'll "crash-and-burn" faster with the casino(s) around. Would I be correct 10 years from now? Perhaps I won't. But we sure are opening up the floodgates to being known as "Sin-gapore".

For the love of money, pls dun!
Quite honestly, deciding to build 2 casinos because it will generate a direct 10,000 jobs is plain lame. Given the social cost, it ain't like building another wafer or petrol-chemical plant. Let's talk about the social cost 1st before Lim Boon Heng starts on the job opportunities generated. I hate to say this, but as a minister or any care-taker of the state, blurting such comments that have not been given suffcient or due consideration is incredibly irresponsible. Let's estimate and postulate the social cost before weighing it with the economic gains. After all, social cost will carry a hefty economic price tag to invest at keeping vice and other social problems at bay too.

Why would a tourist actively choose to come to Singapore because it has a casino or 2 when neighbouring Macau has a more developed industry? Or even the more experienced Genting Casino? How many can we attract and who to Singapore with our casinos? Given our exorbitant alcohol prices, incredulous tabacco taxes, small time red light district, death panalty for even soft drugs. Singapore is an incredibly "clean" and expensive place to gamble. Compared with the big players, what have we to offer that stands out that will garantee the financial returns and justifiable profits of our inevitable social cost? If the idea of employing more policemen and social workers is what we're thinking of resolving unemployment, I say it's time to get back to the drawing boards for better ways to solve unemployment then building casinos.

Monetarily, going into building simply a casino with resort facilities will not be the factor that'll draw the money spending crowds given the fierce competition we face in the region. There is no data that shows some level of safe returns. Socially, history and present day examples have only shown us a social burden that is incredibly heavy and difficult to manage. I can only say, guys up there please do due dligence and present us with way more comprehensive and convincing case before making sweeping statements like "Singapore cannot afford not to have a casino", coz at least 1 Singaporean here isn't convinced.. (Yes, this is what education does to a man....)

2.20c worth.

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