Don’t Take Chances With Your Life

by Patrick Liew on June 18, 2011

I took a taxi recently and it turned out to be one of the saddest trips in my life.

When I first hopped into the taxi; like other trips, I tried to strike up a conversation with the driver. I have learned if you remove the salt and pepper from the conversations, taxi drivers can give you an interesting glimpse of what’s happening in the marketplace.

On this trip, I took back more than I expected. His parting words especially haunted me until today.

When I asked the driver if he had been to the newly-opened casino, I saw his face turning red. His eyes were puffing up and becoming moist.

All I wanted to know was did he pick any passengers from the casino. To him, it meant something else. His response shocked me.

“Yes, I went to the Casino. I only wanted to spend a short time there and have some fun. I ended up losing – can you believe it – $21,000”.

After saying that, tears began to stream down his cheek. I could see his chest heaving with pain and misery.

When I ask him how did it happened. He told me, “I was winning at the beginning and like any normal human, I went on betting. I could not walk away from the ‘easy’ money!

“Then I started to lose and it was even harder to walk away. Since I was already in the pits, I thought I might as well try to dig myself out of it.

“Frustration, fear and finally, despair took control of my heart. I lost my head for reasoning.

“I went back again and again to recover my losses. I was hoping that the tide will change”.

At that point in time, he was crying almost uncontrollably. I had to ask him to stop at the side of the road. I did not want his losses to include his life – and mine.

“What was worse is that I gambled away my mother’s savings. And now, my family is in total turmoil. Everybody is scolding me and putting pressures on me.

“I know there are people like me who have committed suicide. I would have ended my life too if not for my mother. But even though she has forgiven me, I still feel terrible.

“I can never forgive myself. How can I ever repay her with the earnings from my work?”

As I listened to him, I felt his sadness growing within me. My heart was broken, not just for him but for the many more who have been and will continue to be sucked into the evil of gambling.

When our government approved the establishment of the two casinos, it was a sad day for me. I have since then voiced my displeasure – and even anger, if I may add – to two ministers in the current cabinet. I have even raised this issue in a grassroot leaders’ meeting.

Gambling can be very addictive. Hans Breiter, Co-Director of the Motivation and Emotion Neuroscience Centre at the Massachusetts General Hospital was quoted to have wrote,  ‘Monetary rewards in a gambling–like experiment produces brain activation very similar to that observed in a cocaine addict receiving an infusion of cocaine.’

By the way, I have realized gambling can come in many forms. Sometimes they come in the name of business, investment, MLM and harmless bets.

The danger starts when I expect to do little and hope to gain much. And the road downhill after that can be very slippery.

I have seen how gambling has destroyed families and the lives of many people. Many more will suffer because of it – especially those who don’t believe they will fall into this trap.

Let me explain by sharing with you one of the most regrettable things I have ever done in my life.

At one point in my life, I was serving as the Honorary Secretary of a non-profit organization. (You won’t think I am honorable at the end of this story). The committee decided, just like any other country club, we should set up a jackpot room.

I was tasked to chair the project committee together with the club’s accountant, an employee who is educated, intelligent and a very nice person. The experience opened a new world to me – fun, exciting and even educational at the beginning but one that I would never step back in again.

The ‘gambling’ consultants were called in. They taught us how to design the room to make it so comfortable you would not want to leave the “man-made paradise”.

You would be lost in time – and there’s no clock to jolt you otherwise. To make it even more alluring, we would serve you great food and the best wine 

No matter which way you move – including going to the toilet – we would have beautiful “money-making machines talking sublimely to your sub-conscious mind”. It would be hard to resist the seductive messages.

They taught us how to get even “saints to fall in love with the sexy hot bods”. They were not talking about my body.

They were referring to the jackpot machines. These machines were designed to be attractive, beautifully lighted up, exciting, wonderful, appealing … and definitely very destructive.

You would have no chance to escape the pull of death. The only way to become a millionaire in our “mini casino” is to start by being a billionaire. It is one of the best places to exchange everything for nothing.

The best part or the worst part I should say is you can get hooked fairly quickly. How do I know?

After the jackpot room was opened, our accountant decided, since she was involved with the financial aspects of the highly lucrative business, she should “try it out just to find out how it works” and “of course, only for a short while”.

She put in a few coins at the start of the day, a few more during lunch time, and another few more at the end of the day.

After four days, her colleagues came to me and literally begged me to observe and help her. It was not difficult to tell – the consultants were right about the trap – she was one of the first to be addicted.

Our accountant who should know better than anyone else about the traps and temptations was mindlessly pulling the one-armed bandit. She probably continued to pull an imaginary handle even in her sleep.

Right then, I felt my hands were stained with not just one person’s but many others’ innocent blood. (If any politician happens to be reading this Love Note, I hope you will feel the same way too. All the money we can earn for our country is not worth it even if one life is destroyed).

I would be the first to admit I could be the next victim. That’s why I never gamble – not during Chinese New Year or ever. Not even for a small bet. I will even consider applying for Casino Exclusion to ban myself from entering the casino.

 For those who have taken the first step or many steps into this evil, please note that help is around you and accessible. Our good government has appointed the National Council On Problem Gambling ( to provide useful resources and assistance to those in need.

Back to my first story, when we finally reached the destination, the taxi driver told me, “Please spread the message. You can never beat the casino.

“If you win, you will eventually lose. If you lose, you will somehow continue to lose and lose even more.

“Don’t believe you can escape the trap. Why take chances with your life?

“Gambling is one of the roads to hell”.

 Thank you Mr. taxi driver. Your warning will stay in my heart.


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