Did you ever want to travel the world, visiting exotic locations like the Caribbean, Thailand or maybe Bali? A tropical paradise year round, the island of Bali is a major hotbed for tourists. Likewise, it’s the current home of a long-running gambling scam that’s managed to dupe countless visitors out of untold dollars.
Gambling may be illegal in Indonesia, but that certainly hasn’t stopped predatory groups from preying upon the whimsical betting tendencies of tourists. They’re highly coordinated, incredibly convincing, and have even been known to use mild sedative drugs to make their victims more susceptible to the con.
Avoiding the Bali Gambling Scam
Avoiding this common gambling scam is incredibly easy. Abide by the law, and do not gamble under any circumstances. It’s that simple. But for the sake of argument, here’s some distinct clues that should raise instant red flags for any tourist who is approached by an overly cheerful islander.
The scam always starts out with a relatively fluent English speaking person approaching an individual and asking, “Where are you from?” Bali generates 80% of its economy from tourism, so it’s a good chance the answer will be any country besides Indonesia.
Once you respond, the new-found friend will inform you that they have a sister who’s about to travel to there for either school or work, usually to study nursing. The scammer then goes on, asking innocent questions about your native land, and will eventually ask if you can come to their house to convince the mother that the sister will be safe traveling there.
Chances are, you’ll have a few drinks in you by then to relax your inhibitions, and subsequently make you more gullible to the gambling scam.
Once you arrive, the sister has just left to take mom to the hospital – oh no! That’s okay, they’ll be back soon, and there’s food and drink to be had. So while you wait, you meet a few more relatives who keep you occupied. If you’re male, chances are a hot young cousin will be there to flirt with you.
Then the brother or uncle comes in. He just happens to be a dealer at a casino (not an Indonesian casino, because remember, gambling is illegal there), and is perfectly happy to teach you some hand signals and other tricks of the trade. It’s an easy sell because, guess what? There just so happens to be a room in the house with a card table and chips all set up. He even hands you a few hundred US dollars to bet with so you can practice.
Once you’ve learned to read the signals, the gambling scam gets heavier. It just so happens there’s a high roller who’s rich, but a terrible player, expected to arrive any moment. Next thing you know, that arrogant but harmless gambler arrives, and the card dealer suggests you roll them for all they’re worth.
At first, when the stakes are low, you simply can’t lose. But as the stakes get higher, the roles are reversed. The high roller places a large stack of cash – more than you have – on the table. Most people would leave at this point and take their winnings, but that’s when you find out the house rules state you can’t quit once a stake has been offered. You either match it and take the bet, or forfeit everything you’ve already won.
The scammers are more than happy to drive you to an ATM to get more cash. Those who do immediately lose that batch of money as well, because the games are rigged, and have been all along.
One couple from Australia fell for the gambling scam in Bali back in 2011. They lost $3,000 before the wife flew back home and retrieved $15,000 more, then flew back to Bali only to lose it all. When the scammers asked if they could round up another $6,000, they finally realized they had been conned.
This gambling scam has been going on throughout many tourist destination in Asia dating all the way back to the 1980’s, but has most recently become prevalent in Indonesia. If you do happen to have travel plans to Bali, be vigilant. Do not gamble, and be especially careful who you make friends with.