The pace of climate change is causing problems for both bettors and bookies in Cambodia’s rain gambling market.
Outside of the local lottery, Cambodia doesn’t allow its citizens to gamble, a needlessly prohibitionist stance that predictably leads Khmer gamblers to seek unapproved methods of scratching their itch, including the decades-old practice of betting on when rain might fall.
For the uninitiated, rain bettors pick one of three daily time slots – 6am to noon, noon to 2pm, or 2pm to 6am – during which they believe rain will fall. Since Cambodia’s traditional ‘wet’ season – May through October – makes afternoon rain all too predictable, the morning slot is where gamblers stand to earn some real cash if they wager correctly.
A new report by Southeast Asia Globe quotes one rain betting ‘broker’ saying he had “thousands” of customers, who wager anywhere from $15 to $1,000 on the likelihood of the clouds literally and figuratively making it rain.
The brokers use decidedly old-school technology – sheaves of papers on rooftops – to gauge whether sufficient moisture has fallen to qualify as an ‘official’ rainfall for betting purposes. Some more technically savvy bettors are now employing weather radar apps to aid their prognostication, but as one bettor put it, “you cannot believe everything you see” on the radar.
Cambodian authorities frown on the practice – it is gambling, after all – but rain betting brokers don’t seem concerned. As one broker put it, “we pay monthly” to ensure the police develop willful blindness to their activities.
But bettors are nonetheless finding their favorite pastime under threat, not by Cambodian authorities but by climate change. The country suffered its worst drought in half a century last year, with the first rains not appearing in some provinces until June.
One bettor claimed that he was losing his shirt betting on rain that never arrived. “Climate change is making it hard to bet. The wet season now seems to be the dry season as well.”
So there you have it: all this time we thought those fossil-fuel-loving social conservative types were chanting ‘drill, baby, drill’ because they covertly thrilled at the sexual metaphor of laying pipe. Now we know that their real goal was to stamp out gambling in all its forms wherever it may be, and if the planet has to go down to achieve that aim, then so be it.