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Reduce the slot machine clubs, not close them
Published on: Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Kota Kinabalu: The Federation of Chinese Associations Sabah (FCAS) appealed to the State Government to reconsider its decision of not issuing trade licences to establishments with slot machines once their current licences expire.

Instead, it proposed that the State Government reduce the number of such clubs by 10-30 per cent, especially in the small towns, instead of completely forcing them out of business.

Its Vice President Tan Sri T.C Goh (pic) said this in view of the plight of the operators and their staff, following the announcement by Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Jaujan Sambakong.

Jaujan  had said the state Cabinet decided not issue trade licences to establishments with slot machines once their current licences expire.

Goh, who was recently elected President of the Federation of Chinese Associations of Malaysia (Huazong) expressed regret that the State Government seemed to be targeting Chinese business operators, a majority of whom had voted for the change of government in the last general elections.

“Why close the businesses operated by Chinese despite strong support from the Chinese community?

“We urge our Sabah Cabinet Ministers, especially the Chinese Ministers, to better understand the businesses of the Chinese community, and one of them is the gaming industry.

“Whether one likes it or not, it’s a fact that licensed gaming operators had contributed to the growth of Sabah’s economy all these years. 

Malaysia gaming industry is well-governed by regulations. It is one of the best in Asia or even in the world,” he said.

He added that besides giving back part of their profits through Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) programmes, these slot machine clubs also provide good and affordable food and beverages, and fitness training facilities for the public. 

He noted that some of these operators are funding various charities including dialysis centres for those suffering from kidney failure to undergo free dialysis treatment. 

He also cautioned the State Government of the serious implications of its decision to put the slot machine clubs out of business.

He warned that such a move is likely to hit the state with a “triple whammy” that’s far more serious and difficult for the State Government to handle later.

“Firstly, it is almost certain to result in substantial loss of revenues to the state government in terms of the 15% sales tax, and the monthly payment of RM800 per slot machine, currently paid by these establishments. We were made to understand that in 2018 alone, these clubs contributed more than RM51 million in taxes, and out of this, RM24 million went to Sabah. 

“And for the period between 2003-2018, they contributed RM500 million in taxes and RM200 million went to Sabah.

“Secondly, it would put several thousand people out of jobs, which is rather harsh and cruel considering that jobs are really scarce at this challenging time of economic downturn. This would inevitably also affect their dependents (estimated to be more than 14,000 people), among whom are newborns, children who are still in school/college/university, and parents who are retired and in need of medical care.

“And thirdly, which is our worse fear, is that, it would inevitably spur the mushrooming of illegal gambling activities, which are far more devastating than the licensed, well-regulated slot machine clubs. 

“In fact, the government should first go all out to clamp down on illegal gambling activities, the widespread illegal 4D and online gambling especially, instead of targeting the legitimate, tax-paying businesses.” 

He added that the State Government’s harsh decision also contradicted its own pledge, citing that exactly five months ago, the chief minister Datuk Seri Shafie Apdal had promised that more jobs will be created, in response to the criticism by certain quarters that the Pakatan Harapan (PH) government’s election promise to create more jobs  remained unfulfilled.

Goh also clarified that the gaming industry players are just doing their part as legitimate, law-abiding business operators in helping the Government to ensure gambling activities are conducted in a “responsible-and-well-controlled” manner, to minimise the potential adverse social impact of gambling, besides contributing substantial revenues to the government, in form of sales taxes, and creating job opportunities for the people.

“Whether one likes it or not, the gambling industry had existed since time immemorial and with today’s advance internet and telecommunication technology, it is even more easily accessible to the people, regardless of whether a person lives in a Muslim country, or otherwise. 

“I’m pretty sure our government too realised this and the need to keep such activities under good control, through licensed gaming operators, at the same time to take action against those illegal operators,” he said.

FCAS urged the State Government to conduct a proper and in-depth discussion with the industry players and to come up with some “feasible-and-acceptable” solutions, if the intention is to further reduce the social impacts of their business, instead of rushing to make such a harsh decision which might create more problems.



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