Jakarta considers legalizing gambling - Thursday 12th of May 2005

An initiative to legalize gambling in Jakarta has been revived after its former governor, Ali Sadikin, gave his endorsement recently. The Jakarta administration is quietly pushing this initiative after two previous proposals were dropped due to strong protests by Muslim groups. Current Jakarta governor, Sutiyoso, says that illegal gambling and prostitution have been problematic and he is seeking a "correct and profitable solution" to the problems.

A study by University of Indonesia's Centre of Structural Development several years ago, estimated that revenue generated from at least 34 gambling dens in Jakarta, amounted to 300 billion rupiah every night. For more on the impact of legalized gambling in Jakarta, Justin Teo spoke to Prof. Mayling Oey - Gardiner, Executive Director of the Social Science Research and Consultancy in Jakarta. MA: Jakarta has had gambling legalized during the earlier administration in the 1970s, when Ali Sadikin was governor. Of course, he had paid for and financed a lot of public services with taxes from legalized gambling. JT: What do you think the social concerns for legalizing gambling in a city like Jakarta would be? MA: It's often phrased in terms of religion; all religions are against it. So it's those who see gambling as basically bad and having negative influences from the religious side. Of course it also has impact on a lot of people. If you legalize it, then more people will gamble and children too will gamble and then they don't go to school and all the negative parts of gambling arise.

JT: So with the considerable opposition to this proposal being expected, what could governor Sutiyoso learn from former governor Ali Sadikin, who had managed to legalize gambling and prostitution in designated Jakarta, from 1966 to 1977? MA: Well, one is that when the opposition becomes very strong, he will not be able to stick out his neck that far, and social upheaval could come out. So he won't push it too far should the opposition be too strong. On the other hand, if he could just get it through, the benefits are exactly that - quite a significant amount of revenue will be gained gain from it. Those are the two main lessons learnt from earlier experiences. But (the laws) had to be remade in the end, even with Sadikin, we had to give it up in the end. People were then saying how could you go to a prayer house, a mosque, that was built with gambling funds?

From a social perspective, you cannot eliminate gambling, people will even gamble on automobile cars; how many cars would pass by with a certain car number. They were trying to legalize it and we found that a lot of people were...we call buntut, buntut is "tail", so you take the last two digits and you sell lotteries on that. When they couldn't do it here, they took the numbers from Singapore, whatever lotteries Singapore had. JT: How would the proliferation of casino development in Macau and the approval of integrated resorts in Singapore, influence the proposal to legalize gambling in Jakarta? MA: That could very well have cropped up in the minds once Singapore legalized the integrated resorts.

That was also my reaction when I heard that Singapore is legalizing it, that means if it was illegal in Indonesia, they will all go to Singapore. I guess being a sociologist, I am more in favor of legalizing gambling because then you can control it better. If it's illegal, then you have absolutely no control and crime will more extensive and there will be more corruption. JT: An alternative idea of legalized gambling on a designated island in the Thousand Islands chain was raised, would this be a more feasible idea as compared to legalized gambling in the capital? MA: In some quarters, "Yes", but those islands are also not uninhabited. Gambling doesn't just stay with gambling. I mean, then you have all the crime that is associated with it. But it's just localizing gambling which is what Ali Sadikin did. Some quarters definitely say "No", but then it just depends, maybe with fewer fights, he could have more support for that idea because he does want more revenue.

rsi.com.sg

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