Courses at six universities on gambling create angst

By Chen Ching-min, Chen Ching-yi and Jake Chung  /  Staff reporter, with staff writer

Mon, Jan 13, 2014 - Page 3

A war of words has erupted over university courses on gambling, with comments that they were “of lowly status” and should not be compared with other subjects, following a protest on Thursday, while universities defended the legitimacy of their programs.

During a protest staged on Thursday by the Alliance Against the Legalization of Gambling, the group lambasted six schools across the nation “for turning the halls of educations into ‘gambling dens.’”

Control Yuan President Wang Chien-shien said after the protest that gambling often led to people losing their fortunes and caused families to split, adding that universities should have better standards.

“Educators need to give this matter serious thought. These classes [on gambling] are not on the level [of normal scholastic subjects,]” Wang said.

Commenting on the schools’ reasons for opening the courses — that casinos based in Macau and Hong Kong would come to Taiwan and offer high-paying jobs — Wang said that if someone worked at a casino, they would probably feel that they had to gamble as well.

There have been many instances where people have gone to Macau after selling everything they owned at pawn shops, but lost all the money through gambling, Wang said, adding that these individuals sometimes committed suicide because they were ashamed to return to their families.

“How can universities allow such courses to be offered? If the education sector becomes so focused on material wealth, what future can our nation look forward to,” Wang said.

National Taiwan University of Science and Technology (NTUST) dean Liao Ching-jung (廖慶榮), whose school was one of the schools singled out by the alliance, said the school established a Center of Gambling to help the government assess policies and to develop gambling establishments.

Courses offered by the center have more to do with management, analysis and a gambling establishment’s system regulation, Liao said.

“We aren’t teaching our students how to become dealers,” he said.

Liao said that even a conservative nation like Singapore has legalized gambling, adding that it was very possible Taiwan may also see the same establishments in the future.

There is nothing wrong with universities doing relevant research, Liao said, adding that if Wang’s logic was to be applied to Singapore, then “Singapore would also be a lowly country.”

Minister of Education Chiang Wei-ling (蔣偉寧) said the ministry respected the diverse opinions offered by the various sectors.

Gambling-related courses may be offered by universities, but should not be made mandatory, Chiang said, adding that universities also have courses on morals.