Online gambling software developer Playtech has earned itself some seriously bad karma with the release of its new slot game Lakshmi Gold. For those of you who are neither of South Asian descent nor students of world religions, Lakshmi isn’t just the surname of a popular (occasionally nekkid) television cooking show host, it also happens to be the name of the Hindu goddess of wealth and good fortune celebrated during the festival of Diwali. Playtech’s game features images of the goddess seated on a lotus, as well as images of fellow Hindu deity Ganesh, the remover of obstacles (also the one with the elephant head) and other icons sacred to Hindus, such as cows.
The game’s launch has not gone unnoticed by members of the Hindu community. Rajan Zed, Nevada-based Hindu chaplain and president of the Universal Society of Hinduism, issued a statement denouncing the use of religious symbols near and dear to Hindus worldwide simply to pad the bottom line of an online gambling company. Zed urged Playtech to (a) withdraw the slot from use and (b) publicly apologize for pissing off a billion or so members of the world’s third largest religion.
There are two ways of looking at this. You could argue that Hindus should just get over themselves. After all, the Norse religion was a pretty major force across Northern Europe at one time, but you don’t get a lot of Scandinavians protesting Cryptologic’s Thor Slot. Then again, it could be argued that this situation is a lot like white people calling each other ‘niggaz’: rarely a good idea to appropriate the language or iconography of another culture without a thought as to how that culture will interpret such artistic or commercial license.
Would Playtech majority owner Teddy Sagi – who served nine months in an Israeli prison after pleading guilty in 1996 to stock manipulation in the Discount Affair scandal – be as comfortable releasing a ‘Jehovah Jackpot’ slot featuring icons of the tablets Moses brought down from Mt. Sinai, which Israel’s ultra-conservative Haredim would conceivably find offensive? How about a ‘Krazy Krucifiction’ slot in which the aim is to line up all the reels so they complete the image of Christ’s outstretched arms nailed to a cross? No? (Too soon?) We know Muslims frown on visual depictions of the Prophet (peace be upon him), but how about an ‘Mega Mecca Money’ slot in which the aim is to line up 72 virgins? (Actually, that’s a goal not limited to those seeking martyrdom.) Bottom line, we know the well of slot themes has been drained nearly dry, but some ideas deserve staying in the bucket.