Friday, January 21

The underhand tactic of election betting


Of all the factors affecting the outcome of the general election, the most vexatious is gambling.

I am talking about using gambling as tool to influence the outcome of an election, not about wagers among friends or even syndicates which never failed to cash in on any major contests.

Punters would gamble on anything but when it is on politics the implications are more serious than losing or winning money.

Whenever elections come around there will always be whispers of some big ‘taiko’ wading in with unlimited funds to gamble in a bid to influence the choice of the people.

Even the police acknowledge it is a serious problem and have even set up a task force to probe into election-related betting.

Some may wonder if betting really has an impact on the election results.

A statement made by ACP Azam Abdul Hamid, the spokesman for the state police, on Wednesday gave a clear answer to that question.

He was reported to have said that election betting had been used as a ‘weapon’ to cause a rival candidate’s downfall.

That cleared any doubts that betting does have an impact on the final outcome of an election.

There are lingering suspicions that some election results in the past were decided by this gambling ruse but it is impossible to catch the people behind this nefarious scheme.

Betting on election results is not a new phenomenon in the state but I still come across some friends who are still not sure how anyone could use betting to swing votes.

Obviously, they are not gamblers (bless them) and are not wise to the ways of the world!

Let me ‘corrupt’ their minds and explain to them how it works.

As for those of you who like me are familiar with the darker side of the road bear with me.

Election betting is a win-win situation for the perpetrators who want to swing the votes in favour of the candidates they back.

The mechanics are very simple; first the syndicate must be willing and have the money to lose and then they must establish a wide network of runners to look for punters.

The runners would bet against the candidates backed by the syndicates giving ridiculous odds to entice gamblers.

Then those who take up their wagers will have to vote against the opponent of the syndicate’s candidates.

In other words if the syndicate wants candidate A to win against candidate B they will bet against candidate A and let the punters bet on candidate A while they take candidate B.

Naturally the gamblers will vote for candidate A because they want to win their bets.

The catch is the syndicate will have millions of ringgit to wager and they will take on individual gamblers who might have only RM100 to risk.

Imagine if RM100,000 is split into RM100 bets – that will result in 1,000 punters betting for the syndicate’s candidate.

That calculation illustrates how powerful betting is in influencing the pattern of voting in an election.

The beauty of this scheme is if it fails to achieve its objective and the syndicate’s candidate still loses despite the heavy betting placed on him, then the syndicate will win the bets and the whole exercise will not only be free but would net them a windfall!

Now don’t anyone say ‘Bah! Humbug! It never happens’.

If it was mere rumour mongering, then the police would not have set up a special task force to tackle this problem.

The question is which side is using this sinister tactic?

Any side can do it but a sudden surge in a betting pattern could give an indication of the answer.

When I was in Sibu in the early 80’s I remember heavy betting for a political lightweight against a prominent politician who was then a state minister in a parliamentary election and against the odds the political novice won.

I wonder if some unseen hands were behind that result.

Let us pray this dirty tactic will not be used by any quarters in this election but the police statement on the issue seems to indicate that ‘election betting’ is rearing its head again.

It is sad indeed that some voters still hold such a frivolous view on the election and let their votes be decided by the hope of making a few quick bucks.

I appeal to these voters by borrowing a familiar line from Barisan Nasional’s campaign, “Do not gamble on your future.”

Surely choosing the next government is too serious a business to gamble on.