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Friday, November 04, 2005

Happy Festivities!????

Happy Deevali & Hari Raya Puasa to all frens out there!!

Yesterday I had a terrible shock! I got a call from a friend who was looking for 'kaki' to play some mahjong. I know this friend pretty well and thot, "ah, why not, I've got nothing on today anyway..."

So I went over to her place, all set for a friendly enjoyable game of mahjong... I had to drop lyn off first, so I arrived late.

When I got to her place, there was a rather tan, fit looking 'ah beng' having a smoke outside her place. He took one look at me and said, "You're late."

I thought to myself, "erm... ok, I wonder who the fourth person is..." I stepped in to the house, and see my friend already engaged in a table with 3 other gals. My table is next to theirs, with two other intimidating 'ah beng' types, exchanging friendly banter in hokkien.

I sit down, one of them, hands me a small stack of chips and goes on to explain their denomination to me. He ends off by saying, "This is tree hunred... ok?" Meanwhile, I'm dumbfounded, I stutter, "Dollars??" He gives me one look and says, "Ya Lah!" The other guy opposite him chuckles, "No... Pounds".

I'm in shock!

See in mahjong you can have different types of wagers. I guess and friendly wager would be something in the realm of 5cent/10cents, 10cents/20cents or even 50cent/1dollar. But yesterdays game played 1dollar/2dollars. Which may be the norm to some, but certainly not to this novice who suddenly felt like he was in a lions den with 3 hungry lions.

But since I agreed to come and play, i decided to stay anyway...

The pace was fast and furious. many a time, the guys would wait for me to finish my stack or to play my move. To their credit, they were patient. Never once did they chide me for being slow or stupid (despite obvious mistakes I made).

I was so spooked that when Chris called to ask if I had any plans for dinner, I said emphatically,"YES! WITH YOU" Thus limiting the playing time (and damage to my wallet). The ending was far less dramatic. I lost $77 in the span of 2 hours. I won 3 rounds (amazingly) but they were small wins...

Moral of the story, always find out what the stakes are before you enter the game...

But I guess this is like the hot topic of the day. Gambling in Sunny Singapore... I guess the fundamental question is, is gambling (in of itself) a bad thing?

Coming from a economist perspective, gambling is all around us. Everytime we take part in a lucky draw, we gamble. Everytime we bid for a flat or COE, we gamble. How come? well let's take the COE bidding for example. If I were to make a small wager of say $50 for a COE, the chances of me getting it is very low. Sure, I won't have to pay the wager if I lost, but if I did win, I'd have to pay. So I bid something reasonable like $20,000. This way, I'm sure to win and I'm prepared to pay $20,000.

It's like buying the $2 lottery. If I were to buy 1 ticket at $2, I probably won't win. But if I were to buy 10,000 tickets, I'll probably win something.

So then, back to the bigger issue. Is gambling in of itself a bad thing. I know I don't speak for every christian, but my personal take is NO. Gambling is not in of itself a bad thing. When I play the occasional game of poker or mahjong, I actually prefer a small wager. It could be 1cent/2cent, 5cent/10cent or whatever. The point is for there to be a wager, for then, the game would be played differently and more seriously. For people who profess to enjoy gaming for gaming sake, then this is the best compromise... a low wager so that it's not oppressive, yet with a wager, so that the game is played well.

The fine line is then what is a 'low wager'? for regular everyday people like us who earn a salaried income, $1/$2 might be average wager (though not for me). But if I were a property tycoon, then having a $50/$100 wager could seem low to me.

I don't think such subjective measures are meaningful and indeed helpful in determining the right level in which a wager should be set. Perhaps one could look at external factors to determine the wager, like GDP, average national household income, etc.

Where am I going with this? 2 words... Integrated Resorts

But, hey it's still 3 years away... we'll see.

-Jam

12 Comments:

Blogger pify said...

I beg to differ in my opinion on the subject of gambling...unless the reward is for cheesecake! But seriously, CEOs and HDBs are the way the system works here for cars & flats. I wouldn't classify them in the same league as Mahjong and other gambles like 4D and TOTO. The latter activities are choice-driven. You CHOOSE to engage in them or abstain. It's not a system you have to abide with. As for lucky draws, if I get it, I get it. I don't pay an extra cent for a lucky draw coupon I get at the cashier. As for those that come with a charity-spin, I donate not for the sake of crossing my fingers in the hope of winning the Beemer, it just comes bundled together already. When we donate, it's with no strings attached.

10:24 am

 
Anonymous Jam said...

Think you meant COE.

I take your point, but it's the same, only in the terms of scale.

We have a 'choice' to not buy a flat or buy a car. Just like we have a choice to not participate in a gambling session.

I'm not advocating gambling by the way, just highlighting the fact that many times, we have a double standards.

We justify certain decisions that will not standup to scrutiny. We as Christians say we are against certain things, when on the flip side we happily participate in it (albeit a different form).

My personal thought is that like most things in life, gambling (or taking a risk on a stake for the hope of a greater reward) is something that we christians not only do but have made it a mission. Aren't we all asked to gamble our lives (and after lives) on faith in Christ?

I think the difference here is perspective. We percieve gambling (card games, chance games etc) as negative because (and rightly so) of the negative impacts it has on one's psyche (By pandering to greed) it turns into an addiction and robs a lucid man of his rationality.

Fundamentally, I am opposed to this as well. However, I am also in support of rationality.

It's probably more difficult to balance, so in many cases, christians take the obvious conservatist approach or the approach that 'culture' dictates. However, I'm not convinced that this is the right way to approach religion, faith, or even our way of life. Most of us have better education than 90% of the rest of the world. Let's use it.

11:47 pm

 
Blogger XPeriment-626 said...

i've had this conversation with many a christian friend before. I personally know a lot of christians who play mahjong with money. I've done it once myself too, though it was with non-believers. I've never played money with believers, and certainly not when it's in my house.

Having said that, my position is that gambling per se is or isn't wrong, depending on your MOTIVE. When I choose to invest in stocks, I am gambling. It's no different from roulette, just with a more respectable look about it. Look at the table, put some money down, hope you earn something at the end of the day.

Remember, MONEY is not the root of all evil. It is the LOVE of money. Hence, if you are gambling to win money, it is wrong. FOotball betting, 4-D, TOTO, mahjong, poker, etc. If your intention is to win the money based on "luck" (or, God forbid, praying to God for the win), then it is greed, and wrong.

However, if the gambling is a social activity, it isn't wrong unless it is in excess or takes you away from your real priorities.

For example, I play mahjong with my christian friends with chips. We count chips at the end of the rounds, and the loser buys breakfast for everyone. That's it. Is it gambling? I don't consider it so.

What about pool? If two of us book at table for an hour and play a few games, with the loser footing the bill for the table, is that gambling? No, you say, it is skill. Ok, how about four of us go to Settler's cafe and rent Monopoly, with the loser paying for the game and the drinks? That is a mixed game of skill AND chance, not unlike mahjong. Why isn't that gambling?

Or, how about we play Monopoly with REAL money?

See, just what is it about gambling that makes it "wrong"? To me, it's greed. So if you play mahjong or poker or whatever as a social activity once in a while with friends, but are not after the money, and the money is just a small amount to add some interest to the game (otherwise people don't take the game seriously and it becomes boring), why not?

~Junyan

12:12 am

 
Blogger XPeriment-626 said...

Forgot to add something to my earlier comment. What sets my mahjong-and-breakfast example apart from the kind of mahjong where you play to win big money? The fact that in the former, even if I try really hard and do really well, I still can only eat that many roti pratas. But in the latter example, I KNOW the better I play the more money I can win, potentially limitless until I bankrupt somebody or everybody else. That knowledge drives me on to play more and play better. What's that called? Greed. The love of money. What drives me in the first example? A sense of satisfaction at playing with my friends and winning, not unlike winning at Risk or Monopoly. Vastly different motives.

THerefore, I go back to my main contention. It is the greed in gambling that is bad. Greed is, unfortunately, the main driving force in almost all gambling today (especially non-skill games like 4-D and TOTO). However, christians can still play if it is not about greed, but as a social activity with friends.

Just be careful not to stumble your brother ;-)

~Junyan

12:19 am

 
Blogger pify said...

Yes we have to recognise there's ever that possiblity of stumbling a brother/sister, and when presented with a choice, I would be inclined to err on the 'conservative approach' as Jam has labelled it. But of course, put cheesecake on the cards and I'll play for it too! *yum*

4:55 pm

 
Blogger XPeriment-626 said...

If you put cheesecake on the cards they will get sticky and will be hard to play with.

10:17 am

 
Anonymous captain vegetable said...

"Aren't we all asked to gamble our lives (and after lives) on faith in Christ?"
Well - Christ is a Sure Thing. TOTO is not. Also, it's not just about greed - in the case of things like 4D and lotteries and one-armed bandits, it's about depending on sheer chance to bring you money. And yes, I know God's sovereignty leaves no place for true coincidence, and I know that the disciples cast lots to find a new number 12, but it's to do with heart attitude. Frankly many many people are stumbleable when it comes to this point...many cast rationality to the winds all too easily. Which is why I bake my own cheesecakes.

11:33 pm

 
Anonymous captain vegetable said...

And also...if a little money is necessary to make mahjong interesting, as Stitch says - why does it? Why do small stakes add a frisson to the game? It seems to me that the answer is, because they sharpen our desires to covet and compete. I guess for some people this is not a stumbling block, but I would argue that over time it has a residual effect on one's mind.

11:45 pm

 
Blogger ms. potato-head said...

waah...fast and furious debate here..interestingly, i'm doing a paper on singapore's 'integrated resorts' right now. I reproduced two short excertps of PM Lee's parliamentary speech on my blog..go check them out, they're so hilarious. they actually give one an idea of the very ambiguity that surrounds gahmen understandings of morality and ethics and the like.

9:45 pm

 
Anonymous captain vegetable said...

to go off on a slight tangent - having read the opening lines of Jam's initial post again - why did those weird conjoined-festival committee people settle on 'happy deeparaya' as the official seasonal salutation? why not 'joyous puasavali'?

12:03 am

 
Anonymous Jam said...

Hmmm...

Junyan mentioned something that's still in the grey area. When we put money in stocks and shares, we are gambling. And we don't do that for ANY social reason (at least certainly not at the amounts that we transact in).

So in those cases, we are 'gambling' for the sake of gaining money. So again I'd like to say that from my perspective, many of these ills are actually 'social acceptance' rather than 'biblical'.

Example (and I may be opening another can of worms) but how we dress when we go to church. In ages past, people would dress a certain way when they go to church, but as social acceptance to certain ways of dressing change, we now have a vastly different way of dressing (eg. short skirts (girls) or shorts (boys) etc).

I know you may say well how is that relevant? In ages, past, how you presented yourself in front of God was important.

To Chris's point about 'Christ being a sure thing'...

I know it is, you know it is. But non-Christians (and even some who call themselves Christian) do not.

Christianity is faith. There is no proof (in today's evidentiary terms) that heaven exists, that God exists or that Jesus will return. That's why we call it faith. If it was a sure thing, it wouldn't be called faith. So even us, when we say 'we believe in Christ', it really is the faith that HE WILL redeem us that we cling to.

Jam

12:52 pm

 
Anonymous captain vegetable said...

"Social acceptance" cannot and must not be the final barometer of any behaviour for Christians, however. We ought to make that clear... the social-acceptance index of something may not be at all related to its acceptability in God's eyes.
And, unlike Christianity, no amount of faith in TOTO will guarantee the prize to you...which was my original point.

12:08 am

 

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