Church official welcomes ban on gambling in Bangladesh

Leading priest says amended law will also curb related crimes such as money laundering and drug addiction
Church official welcomes ban on gambling in Bangladesh

Bangladesh High Court has banned all forms of gambling and asked the government to amend existing gambling laws to introduce strict punishments. (Photo: Stephan Uttom/UCA News)          

A senior church official has hailed a High Court order banning all forms of gambling in Bangladesh.

“Gambling is an unhealthy entertainment and it destroys personal and family lives. This problem can be uprooted if the government acts properly in line with the court directives,” Holy Cross Father Liton H. Gomes, secretary of the Catholic bishops’ Justice and Peace Commission, told UCA News.

The priest made the call as he welcomed the court order on gambling passed by the government.

On Feb. 10, the bench of Justice Sheikh Hassan Arif and Justice Mahmudul Hasan Talukdar ordered a complete ban on all forms of gambling including indoor games such as housie, dice, flash, one-ten and cards, observing that these are “discriminatory and destructive” as they depend more on luck than skill.

The court also ordered an amendment to the Public Gambling Act 1867, passed during the British colonial era, in order to introduce stringent punishment for violators as well as confiscation of gambling materials from the owners.

The existing law stipulates a three-month jail term and a fine of only 200 taka (US$2.35) for offenses related to gambling.

The law is applicable to all over the country except metropolitan areas including Dhaka. The court also ordered a ban on indoor games in 13 elite clubs in the capital.

The order was in response to a petition from two Supreme Court lawyers in 2016 seeking a ban on gambling in those clubs.

“Gambling also breeds various crimes including drug addiction and money laundering. Banning gambling will help curb such crimes as well,” Father Gomes added.

Due to weaknesses of the law, often police failed to get hold of gamblers, said Dilip Kumar Biswas, officer in-charge of Boraigram police station in Natore district.

“In rural areas various forms of gambling take place regularly and we conduct raids. Those arrested get released soon after and those able to flee start over in new places. Often locally influential people are linked to gambling, making it difficult to monitor,” Biswas told UCA News.

A change to the law and an increase of punishment would mean people will be less attracted to gambling, he said.

Sumon Ali, 40, an inter=district truck driver from Rajshahi district, admitted that he incurred huge financial losses due to his addiction to gambling over the past 15 years.

“On average I earn 40,000 taka per month, but I can barely keep 5,000 taka at the end. Gambling has been a serious addiction for me that I tried to quit but failed,” Ali, a Muslim father of three, told UCA News.

Following the court ban and a possible change to the law, Ali is considering quitting gambling.

“I have seen how people have lost their land and property due to their addiction to gambling. Now, I will try very hard to quit, even fearing punishments,” he added.

The court order seems a continuation of Bangladesh’s recent crackdown on illegal gambling and casinos. Illegal gambling and casino business have made national and global headlines since the Awami League government of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina launched an unprecedented crackdown in September last year.

On Hasina’s orders, law enforcers shut down illegal casinos in Dhaka and arrested the owners, most of them politicians and supporters of the Jubo League, the youth wing of the ruling party.

Those arrested have been expelled from the party and charged with multiple offenses.

The purge took place despite the fact these illegal casinos were something of an open secret and have operated under the noses of the administration and police for years.

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