What does the recent casino bust say about our society?
The talk around town is about croupiers, casinos, and stashes of cash found at the residence of a youth leader. After RAB busted the illegal gambling operations across the capital, which were running under the guise of sports clubs, a dark underbelly of Dhaka has come out in the open.
Though questions should have been asked long before because some of the clubs, like Wanderers and Fakirerpool, do not have any major presence in sport anymore.
The name “sporting club” is just the veneer. The casino kerfuffle has opened a can of worms, many are saying, though the reality is more like, the worms were very visible only we decided to act blind.
Once all sports clubs from third division to the top one, were allowed to run Bingo nights to supplement their income. That evolved into the state of the art gambling facilities. Some noticed, others kept silent and many simply looked the other away.
In Dhaka, there are countless operations which are carried out with plenty of cloak and dagger to avoid being obtrusive.
The casino revelation has also brought out to the open people who were reportedly using political links to run the gambling business.
Will gambling at top clubs be targeted?
The gambling at the sports clubs have been deemed unlawful though there are other clubs where high stakes bets are placed at card tables. Will RAB carry out any operations there or do these institutions have permit to allow punters to gamble?
It is still not clear if the current drive is against simply gambling or any kind of gambling at establishments which, until now, managed to hide their operations from the masses.
The thing is, gambling is in the human nature and since putting an end to it will prove difficult, the government may think of issuing permits to some secured and respectable institutions where legal gambling will be allowed.
In the current furore, the online gambling has been neglected. The law should look into the sites that also operate in the virtual world.
The marvelous allure of sin
We all love salacious stories and with the casino busting, the media had a field day in coming up with all sorts of deliciously wicked titles. One channel even ran the headline as such: What happened at the casinos after dark? We all know what happened but such a headline provokes readers and viewers to extend their imagination about forbidden acts.
The aura of sin and sensation is accentuated when it was reported that two girls were detained from one of the sports clubs. Their story is pretty mundane -- the women worked as receptionists and, sometimes, as assistants.
A major daily running the report of an arrested youth leader, who had stashed a large amount of cash at his home, showed bundles of money and some bottles of alcohol kept to one side. The presentation’s purpose is simple: Creating a situation of sin and depravity. The latter is usually synonymous with alcohol.
A person can have bottles of spirits at home, and in Dhaka there are millions who do. Though countless licensed bars cater to alcohol consumers every evening, the age-old tendency to associate wine or spirit to something utterly abominable goes on. This is because our culture has always portrayed the extreme cases of alcohol consumption where the drinker has either lost control over his faculties or is a scoundrel of the first rate.
For over two decades, the common celluloid portrayal of vice looked like this: A dimly lit cabaret with women dancing in skimpy clothes and villains gulping down whiskey from VAT 69 bottles. In fact, VAT 69 has been implanted in our minds as the drink the baddies take. In reality, it has a royal warrant.
The concept of civilized social drinking has never been discussed in society and, therefore, anyone possessing spirits at home or found to be carrying alcohol face the moral reprimand. Some reports also mentioned the discovery of libido-enhancing medicines. Since when is that a crime and why does it have to be mentioned?
Again, desiring sex for pleasure is frowned upon and termed as misdeeds.
Who’s got the ace up their sleeve?
Several people are detained by law enforcers and reportedly, they have started to talk. The casino mastermind is believed to have been running his business with the blessings of political gurus.
Will these kingpins be exposed? Do they have an ace up their sleeve to save them?
As far as the shelf life of news goes, the casino craze may soon die out. Just like the killing in Barguna which spawned countless sensational theories of extramarital obsession, yaba, and crime committed under the protection of political dons. A month and a half later, the story hardly finds space on the front page.
In about a month, the casino frenzy will dissipate, unless, of course, some top honchos are pulled down from behind the curtain. As for gambling, since Dhaka is a cosmopolitan city, some approved spots may be allowed to operate.
The desperate effort to project a morally righteous demeanour needs to end because such preposterous presentation of puritanism only makes us a laughing stock.
As for gambling, a quote from the film The Colour of Money comes to mind: “Money won is twice as sweet as money earned.”
Towheed Feroze is News Editor for Bangla Tribune and teaches at the University of Dhaka.