It appears that the Kedah state government has not learnt from its debacle in race relations earlier this year, when it chose to cancel Thaipusam as a public holiday in the state.
The Kedah state government’s most recent move to ban 4D lottery shops has again sparked controversy, as it encroaches into the ways of life of non-Muslims.
Just like the consumption of alcohol, not all non-Muslims partake in gambling. But it is a choice. No government should take away that freedom to choose.
For Muslims, it is clear. Gambling is prohibited. For that reason, gaming is a strictly regulated industry in Malaysia, with restrictions against Muslims and minors. For 4D lottery shops, the number of draws per week are capped by the Federal Government.
These 4D lottery shops have been operating in Malaysia for decades without incident. Recreational gamblers have caused no harm to the fabric of society. Meanwhile, hardcore gamblers will not be deterred.
Let us be clear – we are not proponents of gaming. Yet, if we can objectively analyse the situation and understand human psychology, we know that hardcore gamblers are not going to stop gambling just because 4D lottery shops are no longer operating.
By banning legalised gaming, which is strictly regulated and enforced, the Kedah state government would inadvertently drive hardcore gamblers to unlicensed gambling dens or online casinos. This would make it much harder for the authorities to monitor gaming activities.
The Kedah state government should not attempt to rewrite the social contract of this nation. Its latest move shows intolerance and lack of respect for the way of life of non-Muslim communities. In the spirit of moderation, Kedah state leaders should refrain from forcefully imposing religious values in the public sphere on other ethnic and religious communities. Instead, we advise it to focus its resources on inculcating personal finance education and financial discipline amongst its residents, as well as ramp up enforcement against illegal gambling dens.