In a special report on November 4, 2011, the Straits Times put the spotlight on a disturbing development: bosses who use their foreign workers to gamble vicariously at casinos. Employers typically provide each worker with $500 as seed money for the day. Winnings go back to the employer, except for 10 percent which is the worker’s cut. Typically, losses under $500 are borne by the employer, but if over $500, it’s for the worker to bear.

The employers take their employees to the casinos themselves, and fetch them in the evening. The workers’ bags are checked to ensure they have not hidden any winnings.

The Straits Times spoke to five sub-contractors who regularly send their workers to gamble. They said they knew of at least 15 others doing the same. All said they did not force the workers to go to the casino. Three have exclusion orders taken out by family members.

The sub-contractors each send two workers at around 10am. The men take lunch and tea breaks, buying sandwiches or rice dishes from the casino eateries. They do not leave until their employers pick them up at around 10pm, or sometimes as late as midnight.

Mr Eric Leong, 56, sends three workers to the casino once or twice a week.

‘I see it as diversifying my chances of winning money,’ he said. ‘If I play, it’s one person. Two persons play, it’s twice the chances.’

Further down the report, the newspaper noted that Mr Eric Leong had an exclusion order on him, barring him from entering the casino himself.

John Gee, Executive Committee member and immediate past president of TWC2, was quoted by the newspaper criticising this practice:

‘It’s very wrong. The men are willing to work at the jobs they were hired for and they should be able to do that work and get paid for it, not used for anything else,’ said Mr John Gee, president of migrant workers’ rights group Transient Workers Count Too.

‘They have no choice but to do as their bosses say and they come away worse off. It is illegal deployment and it is unethical.’

Gambling counsellors also told the Straits Times that bosses were putting their workers at risk of becoming gambling addicts.

Moreover, evasive measures taken by employers to avoid scrutiny raise additional questions about false medical certificates, as can be seen from this brief mention in the story:

He and his fellow sub-contractors avoid suspicion by getting their workers covered with medical certificates for the days spent at the casino.

‘If the manpower officials question me, I will just say my worker is ill and sneaked off to gamble – what can they say?’ said Mr Leong, whose company handles minor renovation work such as laminating floors and painting.

Now that the Straits Times has exposed this practice, the government is likely to clamp down on it. TWC2 will monitor developments.


Source: Straits Times, November 4, 2011: Bosses send foreign workers to gamble (and 2 related stories), by Elizabeth Soh