BUSINESS

Mahjong Logic’s new licensee; Korean lottery fever; Singapore’s proxy bettors

TAGs: 66mahjong.com, Lottery, Mahjong Logic, Singapore, South Korea

mahjong-logic-korea-singaporeSwedish P2P online mahjong software provider Mahjong Logic has inked a licensing deal with 66mahjong.com. The new licensee has a background in Asia’s hospitality industry and its online arm will focus (initially) on Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan, Japan and Singapore. 66mahjong.com will offer five rule sets, available in English, Chinese (traditional and simplified) and Japanese. The company intends to market on- and offline, and hopes to strike up affiliations with Asian B&M casinos.

In South Korea, the government is attempting to rein in its ever-expanding lottery business. The state-run lottery is on track to hit a seven-year revenue peak, with business up 25% this year. A rollover jackpot in the third week of October pushed ticket sales over twice the weekly average. Out of fears that they could be perceived as abusing their public trust (and their monopoly), the National Gaming Control Commission may put a cap on the number of available tickets “to cool the lottery fever.”

The state-run lottery made its debut in 2002, but despite charging out the gate, sales peaked in 2004, then fell off almost 50% by 2007. The former chief of the Finance Ministry’s Lottery Commission Dept., Hong Nam-ki, told The Korea Herald that the average Korean came to view lotteries as “a cheap fleeting thrill.” So the government hired a bunch of local TV personalities to talk up the charitable causes supported by lottery revenue. They also issued a new pension lottery, in which winners receive an annuity of KRW 5m (US $4,400) a month for 20 years – which cuts down on the number of Daily Mail-type “Yob blows £10m on cocaine and call-girls” headlines. Eventually, Koreans came around to the government’s way of thinking. Problem is, they’re coming all at once. In addition to the cap on tickets, the government has also given its TV pitchmen their walking papers. Will the lack of TV promos cool this national fever, or is South Korea only one more jackpot rollover from going full zombie?

When Singapore opened its two integrated resorts last year, it laid down some strict ground rules for the locals. You could play at the casinos, but only if you paid a $100 entry fee. The casinos could bar you if you couldn’t practice proper money management, and family members could request to have you barred as well. Now an investigation by the Straits Times claims to have identified a number of Singaporean contractors that are getting around these rules (and their relatives) by paying their foreign employees to go to the casinos and gamble on their behalf.

The ‘proxy gamblers’ are given the day off work, transportation to either the Resorts World Sentosa or Marina Bay Sands casinos, and a fistful of dollars. The proxy records each of his bets in a notebook and relays a status report to the boss every couple hours for about a 10-12 hour stretch. If the proxy wins money, he gets a 10% slice. But if he loses more than $500, the whole lot comes out of his paycheck.

Migrant worker rights advocates say this is illegal and unethical, and Singapore’s government is using phrases like “zero tolerance” towards employers who continue the practice. And the workers who were paid to gamble? They said they were never forced to participate and that the casino’s free drinks and air-conditioned confines were a pleasant change from welding steel sheets together under a blazing Singapore sun. As one Bangladeshi worker put it: “Sometimes, in casino, I one day can win 700 Singapore dollars. Every month, I earn only 1,000 Singapore dollars. You tell me, which one is better?”

Comments

views and opinions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of CalvinAyre.com