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Former Jakarta governor Ali Sadikin sadly passed away on Monday.

A former marine he apparently “saw the city as a battlefield and sought to improve public services, clear out slum dwellers, ban rickshaws, and outlaw street peddlers”.

But despite his toughness he was always much respected. Not just for “allowing” Golkar to lose an election in Jakarta but also for his pragmatism in dealing with urban problems.

His most controversial policy was to legalize gambling – a move which raised around 20 billion rupiah a year for the municipality. This was a sizable sum of money back in the 70s and was used for such immoral purposes as building roads, health clinics and schools.

But the pious won the day, and it wasn’t long before gambling was made illegal again.

But 20 billion rupiah is peanuts today of course, and a mere drop in the Sunda Straits compared to the massive US$4.4 billion casino development currently underway in Singapore that is intended to “attract Asia's rich and famous”.

It’s the same old story of course – the Singaporeans seeing a tremendous opportunity that its large neighbor has decided to pass by. And the Singaporeans should do well – by 2011 the regulated gambling market is expected to reach a phenomenal US$30 billion. And none of it for Indonesia.

But there is unregulated gambling of course.

And that’s big business in Indonesia.

In fact, trading on the Jakarta Stock Exchange dried up during the football World Cup finals in 2006, as punters preferred to bet on the football games instead.

And things may be no different tonight.

Chelsea at 2 to 1 to lift the cup? Sounds like good odds to me!





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