The Globalised Video Gaming Machines Hustle of the Chinese
Video gaming/gambling machines manufactured in China and exported globally has now spawned a global Chinese hustle. Two examples to illustrate this Chinese hustle are the realities of Ghana and Trinidad and Tobago (T&T). In Ghana gambling is legal whilst in T&T gambling is illegal except in approved facilities such as the race club, the betting shop and the members club. Yet in both Ghana and T&T the Chinese hustle is strategically very similar which raises the issue of how does the Chinese hustle in T&T surmount the obstacles placed by law and the specific realities that arise with illicit gambling activities? In Ghana and T&T the machines are imported from China sold to locals, placed in the hands of locals through a working relationship with the Chinese or directly managed by the Chinese. In both countries the labour and the face of the Chinese hustle is imported from China and this imported labour works for the faceless owners of the hustle. This is a cash business which means that cash is collected from the machines, it has to be transported, converted and placed into the world currency flows at some point for the Ghanaian Cedi and the T&T $ has to be converted into USDs preferably and repatriated to China or some other point of reception.
In Ghana the country has been inundated with the Chinese hustle but gambling is legal which has enabled the saturation level of the Chinese hustle in Ghana. One issue highlighted with the Chinese hustle in Ghana is the endemic gambling addiction spawned by the machines in the north of Ghana. Where persons now believe that they can earn a living by investing their limited cash resources to beat the machines which inevitably fails. What is then happening is the drain of limited resources from Ghana to China further under developing Ghana. In T&T where gambling is illegal the potent sigh of the Chinese hustle is common throughout the island of Trinidad but are all establishments in which these gambling machines operate legally private members’ clubs? All establishments that are part of the Chinese hustle who are operating illegally operate in the realm where crime groups police the spaces of this realm seeking profits and dominance. The recent arrivals operating in illicit spaces are in need of protection and the links by which to purchase services and impunity from agents of the state and the players of the illicit realm. Those who operate the hustle in T&T without the protection and operating structure of Chinese transnational organised crime groups have then to navigate the terrain of the state and the crime realm in the quest to attain the necessary impunity to ensure sustainable operation of the hustle. Those who arrive in T&T from China as independents with the intent to run this hustle on the cheap refusing to pay the taxes and the tribute due will find themselves on the receiving end of the backlash from the crime realm. The issue of the murders of recently arrived Chinese and the number of reported robberies of these Chinese in T&T have arisen but this is also a reality of Guyana and Jamaica must be viewed via this reality as well as others in play. Those who are operating this hustle along with other hustles such as the illicit numbers game and other forms of illicit gambling are targets of opportunity even though they are part of a transnational organised crime group but the grave risk scenario explodes in intensity for those who are independents as both local and transnational organised crime will feed on them violently when necessary. Being part of an organised crime group generates its own risks as the risk of infighting within the group and there is the risk of conflict between organised crime groups where the earners on the ground become the prime targets. The market in T&T is in change and in a period when a new order with a new group exercising its hegemony is in transition bodies get dropped that’s the nature of the game.
As in Ghana the operating strategy is similar as cash is the preferred operational mode fed into the purchase of foreign exchange and the word is out on this reality in the realm of crime which has become the blood on the water that created a crime feeding frenzy focused on the recent arrivals in T&T, Guyana and Jamaica. In Ghana this feeding frenzy will inevitably appear as there is no shortage of persons in the realm of crime willing to exploit this opportunity as your operational mode facilitates predatory acts. Which in itself potently illustrates the lack of sophistication expected from transnational organised crime making these operations the expendable mask that shields those of transnational organised crime from scrutiny. Only those afflicted with denial don’t accept the reality of the operational existence of Chinese transnational organised crime and those dispensing the discourse of Chinese as incapable of being involved in criminal activities.
October 8, 2017
The Minister of Finance in the 2017-2018 Budget speech of October 2, 2017 stated that: “Trinidad and Tobago is home to a gambling industry worth an estimated $15 billion -$20 billion, from which we collect little or no taxes.” The Minister again states: “the non-enforcement of the current law has led to a considerable rise in non-compliance in respect of remittance of taxes by the sectors of the gambling industry.” And finally “The totally unregulated and buoyant gambling sector and the emergence of online gambling are absorbing significant foreign exchange resources. Some estimates put the annual outflow from Trinidad and Tobago at approximately US$ 200 million.” The Minister of Finance has then confirmed reality on the ground with respect to the failure to police gambling in T&T, the wholesale tax evasion that pervades gambling in T&T and the drain on the foreign exchange reserves of T&T. Not mentioned by the Minister is the money laundering that thrives in this environment and the organised crime that controls it all. Gambling in T&T is then a cauldron that spawns’ violence and the violence will accelerate. One cause of this escalation will be the 10% tax on cash winnings from the online games of the NLCB which will push players into the hands of the illicit numbers game who already pay higher odds and will not levy the tax. This will then intensify the turf war that is presently developing enveloping the Chinese illicit book makers who are not playing by the rules of the game. The failure to police the law is then enabling crime and violence. The dramatic rise in taxation levied on the tables and the machines of the gambling sector has given rise to a public discourse of collective punishment unleashed by specific entities within the sector as the failure to police the sector is the cause of the tax evasion with those abiding by the law being punished along with the tax evaders. In this public discourse the Chinese involved in the gambling sector have been identified as the major evaders and the call is to police the sector not raise the taxes as there is no guarantee that the evaders will now pay the higher taxes due. The visibility of the newly arrived Chinese minority in T&T is rising as they are being placed under the spotlight.