Monday, 20 June 2016

"This is not gambling but gaming"

Excellent, courageous article by David Yoong, Tan Hooi Koon and Ng Choung Min (University of Malaya, Malaysia):

‘This is not gambling but gaming’:  Methods of promoting a lottery gaming company in a Malaysian daily

The article can be found here.

The gaming company is Magnum, the daily is The Star.

Some snippets:

..... it was discovered that the odds of actually winning the top prize is much closer to nil, and that articles featuring a local lottery company, Magnum (and their Magnum 4D programme), in The Star are always positive and biased. This prompted us to wonder: as a mainstream newspaper publication, is The Star operating as a Public Relations (PR) media outlet for Magnum? Is there some sort of collusion going on between the two establishments? Textual evidence seems to suggest so, and we present our case in the analysis section.

StarBizWeek: What more can Magnum do to generate income if there is no extension of coverage or more games?

Surin: It is education. Educating people that for a mere RM2, someone can win a jackpot and be a millionaire. This is not gambling but gaming and it can be a fun thing, for if you win it can guarantee a lifestyle change.

In this doublespeak, the senior executive director does not equate lottery gaming with ‘gambling’, despite lottery gaming having the same characteristics as gambling. Moreover, he says that the public ought to be ‘educated’, which is an odd term since education, a basic right, is about the dissemination of knowledge. His interview reflects the capitalist mentality of the company, and he encourages the consumerism of Magnum’s products.

Because of its gambling nature, lottery gaming has been associated with bankruptcy, the destruction of families, crime and gambling addiction (Guryan and Kearney, 2009; Keating, 1998). Not surprisingly then, Magnum has employed PR practitioners to rebrand its image and to remove any negative stigma associated with its lottery gaming. As the textual (and intertextual) analysis shows, these strategies include attaching an array of positive values to the company, such as trustworthiness, ethical practices and consumer focus, incorporating the voices of individuals that further enhance the company’s image, and presenting these textual strategies as news reports.

..... when reporting news articles relating to Magnum, the public has the right to be informed of the perils that can be caused by lottery gaming. As The Star is an influential publication with a huge readership, it needs to be accountable to the public.

Whilst we do not deny that Magnum’s corporate social programmes are beneficial to society, to say that Magnum is a caring role model is disingenuous, because part of the charity money comes from people who have lost their lottery bets. If the company is indeed civic-conscious, Magnum should inform the public that there is a low chance of winning the Jackpot and that part of the losers’ money is channelled into its social programmes while enriching its stakeholders. Having said that, we are not of the view that lotteries should be made illegal, but giving the public a false sense of likely success is harmful.

Also, Magnum’s success in disguising the negative connotations of lottery as an act of gambling is due in part to the way lottery has been defined by Malaysian law. If laws were amended to define lottery gaming as gambling, inevitably lottery companies could not declare that ‘lottery is not gambling’.

The Star must know about the existence of the above article, written in 2013. Has it changed its ways? Is the reporting more objective, is there a more realistic picture about the small chances to win, the negative expectation of the participants (pay-outs are often in the 60% region), the dangers of compulsive gambling that hit so many families in Malaysia?

The reader can find the answer in this link. It is most disappointing, to say the least.

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