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Chinese gambling dens cause social problems in Zambia
October 12, 2017, 5:23 pm

Social workers and community welfare activists in Zambia have blamed Chinese investments in casinos for the proliferation of gambling that has impaired lives and livelihood of families and led to an increase in social ills across communities.

“In a country plagued by debilitating poverty it is reprehensible that young children and adults are being lured with Bonanza machines and other gambling attractions,” said Edem Djokotoe, a Zambian journalist.

"Every small town and district in every province I have travelled to have gambling centers run by Chinese. I have seen old people and other beneficiaries of social cash transfer programs fritter away their money on gambling and slot machines,” said Mr. Djokotoe.

Social workers say that they have often found under-age children gambling with stolen money and housewives playing Bonanza with food ration money.

It is not the first time that Chinese investments have spurred resentment among the local people. China is one of Zambia’s oldest and largest foreign investors, with bilateral trade between the two countries expanding from less than $100 million in 2000, to over $4 billion in 2016, mainly from export of copper from Zambian mines to China. Chinese state-owned enterprises have a domineering presence in Zambian economy, including in the mining, infrastructure, agriculture and energy sectors.

Despite these huge investments and trade volumes, Chinese companies have often been accused of breaking laws and involving in illegal practices, including strip-mining whole areas without any regard for the environmental or social costs to Zambia. In addition, labor disputes between Zambian workers and their Chinese employers are all too common and, in 2010, two Chinese managers were charged with attempted murder after they opened fire on protesting workers.  In June of this year, the Zambian authorities arrested 31 Chinese citizens on suspicion of illegal copper mining. Chinese officials claimed there was no evidence of any illegal activity, and, that it was over zealous officers engaging in “selective law-enforcement against Chinese nationals.”

“It appears the biggest Chinese investment in Zambia today is not in mining but in casinos. This is not investing in the economy or in our prosperity, it is a path to Zambia’s perdition,” said Mr. Djokotoe. He added, “The Chinese government knows its citizens have a weakness for gambling and that is why casinos are illegal all over China, except in the autonomous special administrative region of Macau, a former Portuguese territory. If gambling dens are not good for China and its people, why is it good for Zambia?”

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