Singapore steps up on proxy gambling

The Singapore government is, encouragingly, keeping its punitive focus on local employers who use foreign workers as proxy gamblers. The strongly worded statements coming from several ministries leave no doubt about the government’s position: the fault lies with the employers, not the foreign workers.

The Straits Times itself has an equally strident editorial which goes one step further by noting the strangely amoral views of employers who described their exploitation of these workers as providing opportunities for wealth and lessons in “life skills”. But the employers are not only amoral, they also seem to believe these absurdities: one quoted in the original article proudly described how he sent multiple foreign workers to gamble as a form of investment diversification. Perhaps Singapore needs to introduce revised math education in addition to its new morals education; both could be funded with a portion of revenues from the gambling industry. Nobody should get though the PSLE without understanding that making bets against the house is a road to poverty, not riches.

The ST editorial laments that “careful crafting of regulations to minimise social harm could not have foreseen unlikely breaches”.  True, this exact scenario would have been hard to imagine, but discouraging Singaporeans and permanent residents from gambling while welcoming foreigners creates an economic system for breaches, at S$100 a breach. With hindsight, isn’t it inevitable that poor foreigners would have been used to circumvent the system?

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