Imagine losing $76 million U.S. at a casino!

When modern Singapore’s founding father, Lee Kuan Yew set his ambitions to move Singapore from third world to first, in the mid 1960s, there were certain things he mandated.

One of them was to make gambling illegal—not to mention urinating in elevators, spitting on streets and parading around your home naked.

As nutty as the rules might sound, they actually made sense.

 Drunken people in China are known to urinate in elevators from time to time, which doesn’t do wonders for tourism.

Spitting became such a habitual Singapore habit, and in China, it still is. Even in high class places, it’s recommended that you never put your bag on a restaurant floor in China—for fear of it landing in something from a murky orifice.

Then there’s the nudity. With close proximity to neighbours, one person’s condominium free zone is an impediment to young boys’ upcoming exam scores. And don’t be mistaken. Exams are important over here.

This brings us to gambling—the intoxicating activity that has a firmer grip on people of Chinese heritage than anyone else on the planet. Lee Kuan Yew made it illegal.

Yet modern Singapore shattered the earlier precedent this year by building a casino—one of the world’s biggest. They sure don’t mess around over here. …read more

But with massive casinos come some staggering individual losses, especially for Singaporeans who have always wanted to piss away millions, but never got the chance. Read about a man who lost $76 million U.S. here:

How about you? Do you gamble at casinos? And what do you think of people losing staggering amounts like this? Will this man (and others like him) eventually bury themselves? He’s no longer at the country’s helm, but I wonder what Mr. Lee Kuan Yew is thinking.






Andrew Hallam

I’m a financial columnist for Canada’s national paper, The Globe and Mail, as well as for AssetBuilder, a financial service firm based in Texas. I’m also the author of Millionaire Teacher: The Nine Rules of Wealth You Should Have Learned in School (2nd Ed. Wiley 2017) and The Global Expatriate’s Guide To Investing: From Millionaire Teacher to Millionaire Expat (Wiley 2015). My mission is to educate, motivate and inspire people on basic retirement planning and best practices for investing, using evidence-based strategies. I’m happy to comment on your questions. However, please read the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and the Comments Policy.

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11 Responses

  1. Love the sense of humour, Andrew. I have heard of the spitting problem in China as well! Something about how the culture has not kept up with the rapid economic modernization.

    I don't feel sorry for the guy who lost $76 million unless he was swindled. If it was just from playing Baccarat though it's his loss. I do hope he gets help though!

    I personally don't gamble except for playing Poker. I don't see the point if I know the game is rigged against me, and even Poker at casinos is not that great with the high rake. I'd prefer to play online. 😉

  2. I am a gambler alright, my gambling budget is $20 per year that is if I visit the casino during that year. To be honest, I do not consider this $20 as gambling money, I consider it charity towards our provincial government who is only good at reporting increasing deficits. Maybe my $20 helps them out a bit.

  3. BadCaleb says:

    I used to love going to casinos when I couldn't afford it. I would win as many times as I would lose. I went to Las Vegas a few months ago and found I could not part with my money as easily as I did before. I would be content watching my friends gamble their money and get free drinks when the hostess came around. Even though I have more disposable income than I ever had before, the excitement of winning was not greater than the fear of losing. And it's not really the losing money aspect because you shouldn't go to Vegas expecting to come back a winner, its rather the feeling of being duped… suckered… swindled. Actually, having come back I have started to look at the Las Vegas Sands operations in Macau to see how their business is working out for them. Nah, I'll stick to my boring indexing and dividend paying stocks.

  4. @Kevin@InvestItWisely

    Hey Kevin,

    The spitting thing is actually pretty funny. You can walk into the Hilton in China, and some businessman in an Armani suit can walk by and hork on the lobby floor.

    As for gambling, I've never actually done it. I was at a fair once, and there was one of those machines you could put a quarter in—you know the ones that have layers of quarters, and that if your goes in, it could push others down into the "pay slot". I wanted to put a quarter in because there were a load of them hanging (seemingly) tenuously. But my wife wouldn't let me. I definitely married the right girl!

  5. @Kevin@InvestItWisely

    Hey Kevin,

    The spitting thing is actually pretty funny. You can walk into the Hilton in China, and some businessman in an Armani suit can walk by and hork on the lobby floor.

    As for gambling, I've never actually done it. I was at a fair once, and there was one of those machines you could put a quarter in—you know the ones that have layers of quarters, and that if your goes in, it could push others down into the "pay slot". I wanted to put a quarter in because there were a load of them hanging (seemingly) tenuously. But my wife wouldn't let me. I definitely married the right girl!

    @BadCaleb

  6. @BadCaleb

    Hey Bad Caleb,

    Nowadays, I think you'd prefer owning the casino to gambling in one.

    Like you, I'd get a kick out of watching my friends gamble. I have a friend who once won $40,000, about two weeks after winning $5000. But he's really honest. When I asked him if he was "ahead" after all the years of playing in the casino, he said he wasn't sure. Wow!

  7. Kevin@InvestItWisely says:

    <blockquote cite="#commentbody-1296">

    Andrew Hallam :

    @BadCaleb

    Hey Bad Caleb,

    Nowadays, I think you’d prefer owning the casino to gambling in one.

    Like you, I’d get a kick out of watching my friends gamble. I have a friend who once won $40,000, about two weeks after winning $5000. But he’s really honest. When I asked him if he was “ahead” after all the years of playing in the casino, he said he wasn’t sure. Wow!

    Hey Andrew,

    I remember my girlfriend "almost" won $10,000 at the casino last year. She put in a quarter in a slot machine and got 3 "special jackpots" line up. With 3 quarters, this would have been worth $10,000. With 1 quarter, it was worth absolutely nothing.

    I still have a bit of a sour taste in my mouth from that. So close! That is the kind of thing that induces gamblers, though. It works against your human psychology.

  8. @Kevin@InvestItWisely

    It's funny how we never forget those "almost" stories.

    I almost won $400 when I was 12. A local radio station called my house. They pick random numbers out of the phonebook and then, on air, they make a call. They have a pot of money they're ready to hand out to the receiver who can correctly answer a tricky question. My dad was at work, listening to the radio when they called our place. I was goofing around outside and chose not to run in for the phone–despite hearing it. The question was–"What Mediterranean country is Naples in?" I had just finished a school project on Italy, and I knew the answer. But because I didn't pick up the phone…….

    It may not be a gambling story, but "lost" money or a "lost financial opportunity" wedges into a part of our brain and we can't shake it. People playing a certain slot machine moments before somebody else wins a jackpot on the same machine must feel that way too. It's not healthy, but it's probably that kind of psychological impact that keeps casinos going.

  9. @Mich@BeatingTheIndex

    Hey Mitch,

    That sounds cheaper than the cost of a movie–and you're bettering the road system in the process. Nice work. Gotta hate those potholes.

  10. The Rat says:

    I utterly despise going to casinos because I know the ill effects it can have on an individual's health and their pockets. I'm actually scared of the prospect of falling into the abyss and never coming back out. I stay far….very far away from them.

    Call me a hypocrite or whatever you like, I have still nevertheless managed to invest in shares of a casino. Yes, I have a position in Gamehost Income (GH.UN) and it is one of those high yielders (currently at about 9%) that also pays a special divvey from time to time.

    But what I do find strange when it comes to investing in 'sin stocks', I have never been able muster up the strength or acceptance to buy shares in tobacco stocks. I have positions in alcohol (such as LIQ.UN, BR.UN, AND CDL.A and CDL.B) but I just can't get passed the mental process, despite knowing the potential lucrative opportunities.

    Nice post

  11. @The Rat

    JP,

    I feel similarly. During one of Altria's cratering moments I was very tempted to buy shares. But I didn't. In terms of ethics, though, it's tough to draw the line. I own enough Coca Cola stock to buy a house in Montana—so I've made more than a mild committment there. But I know that it might as well be cancer in a can. Hmmm. Just writing that makes me feel pretty uncomfortable. Should I?

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