While PriceWaterhouseCoopers predicted in 2011 that Asia Pacific will be the fastest-growing region for casino gaming spending, Indonesia remains strictly opposed to all gambling activities. When neighboring Singapore’s Marina Bay Sands casino opened, it became a major casino destination for tourists, bringing in roughly US$2.8 billion in revenues that same year. Despite seeing the major benefits that casinos can bring to a country, the Indonesian government remains undeterred in its position to ban gambling in Indonesia.
Despite the ban, Indonesians still find a way to gamble and take part in sports betting online. Many online betting companies even offered deals specifically for Indonesian customers, for example look at the variety of bonuses to attract players to Lapalingo. In response to this, starting in 2012 the Indonesian ministries of Social Affairs, Religious Affairs and Communications & IT have been working together to block access to online gambling websites — including sites offering door prizes or free lotteries — from Indonesia. Although illegal gambling operations and websites constantly pop up in the country, the police actively investigate and raid such facilities. However, Indonesians are not punished for going to casinos in other countries, the closest being in Singapore and Malaysia.
Here are the reasons why the Indonesian government is inclined to ban casinos and all gambling activities in the country:
The fact remains that there are moral concerns over casino gaming. In a nation that is predominantly Muslim, Sharia law has become a powerful driving force behind the country’s policies. The Quran constitutes gambling as “games of chance” and condemns the “acquisition of wealth by chance (not by effort)” as it is evil.
As Muslims are forbidden from engaging in activities such as prostitution, drinking alcohol and gambling, punishments for breaking such laws can be severe. Imprisonment and public caning are common penalties for those who are convicted of gambling, especially in regions like Aceh where Muslim law is adhered to more strictly.
Social costs of gambling
A widely known argument against the legalization of gambling and casinos has to do with its social implications. Although gambling seems like a harmless form of entertainment, it’s often linked to money laundering, prostitution and organized crime.
As most people will not take part in gambling if it is outlawed, legalized gambling can entice people to participate in it, even stimulating illegal gambling. It has been reported that the growing accessibility of gambling facilities is linked to gambling addiction and can affect both men and women from all socioeconomic classes. Gambling addiction affects the society negatively, as addicts are likely to abandon their social responsibilities, leading to job loss, physical and mental health issues, bankruptcy, and sometimes resorting to crime and suicide.
Exploitation of the poor
In the 1990s, Indonesian university students staged protests against the controversial government-sponsored lottery, stating that the lottery takes advantage of the poor. K.H. Misbach, chairman of the Indonesia’s Ulemas Council east Java chapter, said that “the lottery must be scrapped” in order to reduce poverty in Indonesia. Although the government maintained at the time that the state-run lottery is not a form of gambling, lotteries are now considered as gambling and have been banned in the country.
The prospect of getting lucky and striking it rich seems to be what attracts most casino gamblers. For the wealthy, the money spent on casinos may not put a dent in their savings. In fact, most of the money lost on casino gambling in the U.S. comes from households in the lower income percentile (earning less than US$50,000 a year), the Christian Science Monitor reported.