Gambling in Flores, Indonesia: Not such risky business


Please send correspondence to Jayne


Gambling is fantastically popular among Ngadha people on the island of Flores in eastern Indonesia. The White Coupon lottery, cards, cockfights and board games are ubiquitous, providing a socially acceptable medium through which to use and circulate cash. However, gambling as an economic activity does not sit well with development paradigms of the Indonesian State, Catholic Church or foreign-aid agencies. Cast as greedy and wasteful, gambling evokes images of lazy and nefarious characters. Yet for Flores players who oscillate between agricultural subsistence, sporadic wage labour and a market economy, gambling is a viable economic strategy. This was eloquently explained to me by a Ngadha gambler, who said ‘plant one seed and you may get ten beans, bet Rp1000 you may get Rp10 000 back.’ This enticing logic articulates the rationale for framing gambling as one of a raft of economic activities, albeit illegal, in this relatively remote rural location.