Former teen bookie tells of quick bucks

PETALING JAYA, Malaysia - He was only 13 when he started collecting bets from his schoolmates for the World Cup football tournament.

IT executive Steven Goh recalled that he became a bookie because he loved football and wanted to earn some fast cash.

"My friends would bet RM2 (S$0.80 cents) to RM3 over who would win the matches. I had a notebook to keep track of their names and bet amounts.

"A few bucks is not much but when you bet with many people, the stakes can easily go up to about RM700," said the now 22-year-old, adding that he earned up to RM400 from the bets.

He said that while he only took bets for the World Cup, his schoolmates were bookies for other football events, such as the English Premier League games.

"They were about the same age as me at the time," said Goh, who hails from Malacca.

His gambling days came to an end when he was 16.

His mother found his notebook and punished him.

Goh said he was grateful his mother had stopped his gambling and bookie activities before he became addicted.

"It is very easy to fall into the lure of betting," he said.

Goh advised youths involved in gambling to get out of it while they still could.

"It is not worth it. You can spend your time doing something more productive."

Meanwhile, a child and adolescent consultant psychologist said there were various push and pull factors that led young people into the vice.

Dr Lai Fong Hwa said teenagers used gambling as a means to escape from stress at home and school.

"But it is the high which comes from winning that makes them eager to gamble again," he said, adding that they could also be driven by materialism.

Dr Lai said the lack of parental supervision was also a factor contributing to young people being addicted to gambling, as it was common for both parents to work.

"I suggest that parents place computers in the living room to keep an eye on their children when they are at home," he said.

He said parents should also communicate with their children more often to know them better and spend time together doing fun activities.

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