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Losing the gamble

  • Published at 02:35 pm September 30th, 2019
Since September 18, Rapid Action Battalion has raided a number of sporting clubs in different areas of Dhaka Syed Zakir Hossain/Dhaka Tribune

Curbing gambling requires stricter laws and punitive actions

The new talk of the town is casinos and gambling. And before the news of illegal casinos hit the news, it never even occurred to us that such organized gambling could even exist in our country.

Although, in many countries, gambling is legal and is even a source of revenue for the government, the state of legalization of gambling in Bangladesh is … murky.

One may say gambling is just a mere source of entertainment. Whatever reasons provided, gambling it is still against the moral, social, and religious values of this country. 

Article 18(2) of the Bangladesh Constitution prescribes that the state should take effective measures to prevent gambling from becoming a trend.

The Public Gambling Act 1867 states that if the owner or occupier of any house, tent, room, space, or walled enclosure gives permission to use the place for gambling, they will be an offender. Even the manager or any other persons who help in other ways for others to gamble would be recognized as an offender.

Anyone who advances or furnishes money for the purposes of gambling would be liable. 

According to the act, these offenders will be fined with, not exceeding, Tk200 or an imprisonment of three months.

There are provisions to arrest people (without a warrant) who are found playing or are present with the purpose of playing. The fine for such offense does not exceed Tk100 or imprisonment of a maximum of one month.

This act gives power to the district magistrate, district superintendent, and other individuals of authority to enter the premises where they suspect gambling is taking place, seize any paraphernalia, take custody, and search every part of that place at any time on the basis of credible information.

The act also prescribes double punishment for repeat offense but has its own limitations -- no more than one year of imprisonment and fine not exceeding Tk600. 

To say these laws need to be updated, would be an understatement.

With changing times and circumstances, it is clear that the laws are not fulfilling their purpose -- in the case of gambling, people can pay a small fine or be imprisoned for a short time. 

Lax laws such as these do very little to discourage people, and often pave the way for larger impunity instead.

The world of gambling is digitizing, and online gambling is different from traditional gambling and it is necessary to update our gambling laws to cover the crimes happening online as well. 

The number of people involved with gambling in our society is alarming.

The rich may somehow adjust the loss but the poor who risk their entire earnings suffer more. The worst part of gambling is that it is not only the gambler who suffers but also his or her family members -- those who depend on them.

Clubs that were established for the wellbeing of society and the development of the young generation have turned into gambling houses.

 This not only affects the capital but also small towns, giving rise to other heinous crimes.

The government needs to ensure that any updated laws are implemented properly and not simply left by the wayside.

Rizowan Ahmed is a freelance contributor.