Mon, Jun 15, 2009
The New Paper
Luck runs out for Chinatown gamblers

[BLATANT: The men openly gambled in the food centre, usually late into the night.]

FOR the past one and a half months, the Chinatown Complex Food Centre was more than just a place to have meals.

Small groups of men would arrive at the food centre in the evening, and turn it into a makeshift gambling den.

But their luck ran out on Wednesday when police raided the food centre.

Hawkers told The New Paper that the gamblers had been a regular fixture at the food centre.

Cooked food stall assistant Madam Leong, who is in her 60s, said: 'They would meet about five days a week and would sit there for more than five hours each time.'

After ordering their usual round of beer, they would sit at round tables, chat, and whip out their cards to gamble.

Madam Leong's stall is a family business run by two other relatives and a helper. It is just around the corner from where the gamblers usually gather.

Madam Leong's aunt, Madam Zhou, said her business had been affected ever since the men started gambling there.

'We have very few customers because people are scared of those gamblers and drinkers,' said Madam Zhou, 68.

Canteen operator Mrs Irene Tan, 52, who is a regular customer at the food centre, said: 'I try not to sit behind where those men are. I'm scared as men who drink will also tend to lose control, so I try to sit further away from them.'

On Wednesday at about 9.15 pm, police raided the food centre.

Seven men were arrested.

A contributor to the Stomp website, Laurence, who frequents the place for meals, witnessed the raid.


Business at the Chinatown
Complex Food Centre was
affected because people
were afraid of the gamblers.

'The gambling had been going on blatantly for the last three months,' said Laurence, who posted pictures of the men being rounded up on the Stomp website.

'The group had (previously) avoided arrest as the earlier raids were carried out by uniformed police.

'This time, they had no escape from the plainclothes officers.'

A contract cleaner who works at the food centre recalled seeing uniformed policemen conducting checks a few weeks ago.

The 32-year-old cleaner from Sabah, who wanted to be known only as Mr Ali, said: 'When they see the police coming, they will keep their cards.'

Mr Ali added that he has seen the gamblers almost every day since he started working there in March. Up to about 10 men would gather at each session, he said.

He clears the tables of the empty beer bottles but does not know what they play, or the amount of bets they place.

'I just know that they play using cards, but they don't fight or shout. They would usually sit for long hours, until about midnight.'

Police confirmed that seven men aged between 51 and 68 were arrested for offences under the Common Gaming House Act.

About $4,500 in cash was also seized. Police are continuing their investigations.

- Geraldine Yeo, newsroom intern

This article was first published in The New Paper.

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