Two Indonesian women have been publicly whipped nearly 100 times each for selling sex workers’ services online, an official in the country’s conservative Aceh province said Tuesday.
Aceh, at the tip of Sumatra, is the only region in Muslim-majority Indonesia to impose Islamic sharia law, which allows flogging for a range of offences including prostitution, gambling, adultery, drinking alcohol, and gay sex.
The punishment was handed down Monday in Langsa city where dozens gathered to watch the pair get lashed, despite bans on crowds over coronavirus fears.
Neither of the women wore disposable face masks, unlike in some other recent whippings.
The two hijab-wearing suspects were arrested in March along with five sex workers, who could also face a flogging if found guilty of violating Islamic law, said Aji Asmanuddin, head of Langsa’s Islamic sharia agency.
“They were punished for violating sharia by advertising (sex) through the internet,” Asmanuddin said.
Officials were struggling to crack down on the area’s booming online sex trade, he added.
“This is the first (pimping) case in Langsa although we believe there are many of them out there,” Asmanuddin said.
“We just don’t have the necessary tools to monitor them online.”
Rights groups have slammed public caning as cruel, and Indonesia’s President Joko Widodo has called for it to end.
But the practice has wide support among Aceh’s mostly Muslim population.
Britain will from April ban the use of credit cards to pay for bets, its gambling regulator announced on Tuesday, the latest clampdown on the industry.
“The Gambling Commission has announced a ban on gambling businesses allowing consumers in Great Britain to use credit cards to gamble,” a statement said.
The ban comes into effect on April 14 and follows a measure introduced last year by the British government to slash the maximum stake on electronic casino-style games aimed at curbing their addictive appeal.
On banning the use of credit cards, Gambling Commission chief executive Neil McArthur said Tuesday:
“Credit card gambling can lead to significant financial harm. The ban that we have announced today should minimise the risks of harm to consumers from gambling with money they do not have.”
McArthur said that 22 percent of Britain’s online gamblers using credit cards are “problem gamblers”.
“There are examples of consumers who have accumulated tens of thousands of pounds of debt through gambling because of credit card availability,” he said.
“There is also evidence that the fees charged by credit cards can exacerbate the situation because the consumer can try to chase losses to a greater extent.”
The Commission noted that 24 million adults in Britain gamble, including 10.5 million online.
“Whilst millions gamble responsibly, I have also met people whose lives have been turned upside down by gambling addiction,” Culture Minister Helen Whately said in Tuesday’s statement.
“We will not hesitate to take any further action necessary to protect people from gambling harm,” she added.
Share prices in British gambling firms slid in early trading on Tuesday in reaction to the latest measure.
Albania’s law to ban gambling will take effect on January 1st,2019 to curb domestic violence and poverty to lining the pockets of criminals, Albania’s love of gambling has spawned a scourge of social ills in one of Europe’s poorest countries.
But at the start of 2019, the Balkan state is taking a nationwide resolution to break the addiction in hopes of curbing suffering that has consumed many families.
On January 1 a law will go into effect shuttering the 4,300 betting venues that have cropped up on nearly every street corner in the country of 2.8 million people.
It is an “extremely high” ratio of one shopper 670 people, far above that seen in both neighboring Balkan states and more developed Western European countries, says economist Klodian Tomorri.
The betting blackout will also outlaw online gambling and restrict casinos — some of which are currently near schools — to five-star hotels in licensed tourist resorts.
For people like Arta, a 31-year-old mother of two, the move is welcome although it comes too late to shield her own family from a devastating loss.
Last July her husband leaped off a building after betting for the losing team in Belgium-France football match, she recalls with tears and trembling hands.
“He bet on Belgium, but in fact, what he got was misery,” said Arta, who is now relying on around 100 euros of monthly state aid to raise her young kids.
According to a study by the University of Tirana, one out of four gamblers has attempted suicide at least once.
Another 70 percent have struggled with stress and psychological problems.
“We also found a close link between domestic violence and gambling, which has led many families to experience very serious crises,” said Iris Luarasi, who runs a counseling line for victims of violence.
Ilir Musta, a heavyset 35-year-old man, experienced that type of family catastrophe first hand.
“I don’t know how to get out of this, please help me,” he recently told a doctor in Tirana, where he was seeking help for anxiety.
“The game was good at first, but now it’s cancer. I lost my life, my wife, my daughter, I’m a living dead,” added Ilir, speaking in a shaky voice as his eyes darted around the room.
He started betting on sports just two years ago, convinced he was on the verge of making a fortune.
But instead, he found himself drowning in debt and ended up in prison for violently beating his wife after she asked for a divorce.
There are scores of other families who have been ruptured by the destructive addiction.
According to Tirana lawyer Vjollca Pustina, some 70 percent of divorce cases brought to court in the capital this year have been linked to gambling.
The government says rehabilitation centers will be opened to help gamblers who will be forced to quit cold turkey.
But there is concern that the centers will not be ready soon enough.
“Gambling addiction is a disease and must be managed once the betting rooms are closed for players, but for the moment rehabilitation centers are completely missing,” said Menada Petro, professor of social sciences at the University of Durres.
Cash and crime
The industry has also been criticized for draining money from families in a country where the average monthly salary is below 300 euros ($342).
According to official figures, Albanians spend some 140 to 150 million euros ($170 million) on sports betting annually, which amounts to 70 percent of what the average family spends on healthcare.
But when accounting for illegal betting, the real figure is estimated to be around 700 million euros ($798 million), according to the government.
For Socialist Prime Minister Edi Rama, another core goal is cutting off cash flow for organized crime groups who profit from the industry and use it to launder money.
But he admits that the new law will not end the fight against gangs, a key task for a government that wants to kickstart EU accession talks.
“The war will continue as criminals change their skin and strategy,” Rama said in a recent TV interview.
Some betting shops already closed in December while others are trying to profit from a final year-end rush, said Artan Shyti, president of the Federation of Albanian Betting Companies.
The next battle will be controlling illegal venues, especially online.
Betting firms “have started to move to Macedonia, Montenegro, and Kosovo where they already have their subsidiaries and can operate quietly (online),” Shyti told AFP.
Albania tried to reduce the number of betting clubs in 2013, but politics and special interests got in the way.
Now the new law, passed in October, will put some 8,000 people out of work.
“The authorities have allowed (this industry to grow) and now they are forcing us to suddenly close our business without distinguishing between clean and dirty (operations),” says Arjan Gumi, 47, who has run small betting club in Tirana for 16 years.
He says he doesn’t yet know what to do next and is hoping the government follows through on a promise to assist the unemployed.
DreamWorks Animation SKG Inc, the movie studio famous for family films like “Madagascar” and “Shark Tale”, has entered into a licensing agreement in Macau, the world’s biggest gambling destination, in a push to diversify revenues.
The deal with billionaire Sheldon Adelson’s Sands China Ltd allows the casino operator to use characters like Shrek and Po from “Kung Fu Panda” in the casinos as Sands moves to attract leisure and family visitors.
California-based DreamWorks announced the deal on Tuesday with popular franchise characters on display. Guests at Sands’ Venetian and Cotai Central resorts will be able to see and interact with the characters during their stays, the film company said. The deal takes effect on July 1.
DreamWorks’ venture in Macau may help boost the $2 billion company’s efforts in China after it posted its first quarterly loss in almost six years in February.
In an advertising splash, DreamWorks took out three full-page color advertisements on Tuesday in Hong Kong’s main English-language newspaper, the South China Morning Post, displaying Po, Shrek, and the animal cast of “Madagascar”, asking readers to guess where they were taking their next holiday.
Macau, a former Portuguese colony, is the only place in China where people are legally allowed to gamble in casinos. More than two-thirds of Macau’s visitors come from mainland China.
Chinese and Macau government officials have been pushing for casino operators like Sands to diversify their operations to appeal to a more mass-market international tourist destination.
Macau is heavily reliant on the gambling industry, with more than 70 percent of tax revenues coming from the casinos. Tourists come primarily to gamble as opposed to Las Vegas, where shows, fine dining and other forms of entertainment are in higher demand.
Rival casino operators located adjacent to Sands’ resorts on Macau’s Cotai strip have also been trying to diversify their gambling offerings. Melco Crown Entertainment Ltd, owned by Hong Kong billionaire Lawrence Ho and Australian tycoon James Packer, produces the House of Dancing Water show, while Galaxy Entertainment Group Ltd has a cinema and a skytop wave pool.
Michael Chopra, Ipswich striker has been charged with horserace fixing by the British Horseracing Authority (BHA).
Also charged along with the 28 year old is Nottingham Forest midfielder James Coppinger and former England Under-21 international Mark Wilson alleged to have conspired to fix races with jockey Andrew Heffernan.
They were charged with conspiring to ‘commit a corrupt or fraudulent practice’, while Chopra and Wilson were further charged with offering bribes to Heffernan.
Jockey Heffernan, who now rides in Australia, faces five charges of corruption and could be banned for up to eight years. The charges span 12 races in 2010 and 2011.
Chopra has a long-standing gambling addiction and has lost up to two million pounds, with Ipswich Town paying him 250,000 pounds when he first joined to help pay off one particular debt, and have subsequently paid wages directly to those he owes.
The three footballers will face a three-year ban from horse racing, including any involvement and from attending racecourses.
The Football Association is taking a backseat, allowing the BHA to complete their enquiries, before deciding on any disciplinary action.