Indian superstar Shaam arrested for gambling during lockdown

Jon Pill
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Posted on: August 21, 2020 2:34 pm EDT

Shamshuddin Ibrahim, better known by his stage name Shaam, was arrested for illegal gambling on Monday. The police turned up to take the Indian movie star in, based on a tip that there was illegal gambling happening behind the doors of his well-appointed rooms in Chennai’s upmarket neighborhood of Nungambakkam.

Shaam is a major star in the Tamil and Telugu film industry. Also known as Kollywood to distinguish itself from the Hindi speaking Bollywood. His career kicked off with 12B. After that came a slew of hits, including Action — which is effectively the plot of The Hangover, but with additional song and dance numbers — and crime movies like Kick.

Officers entered Shaam’s apartment and cuffed eleven other men. They also, packed up a haul of equipment. This included playing cards, gaming tables, gambling “tokens,” and piles of straight-up cash.

The tip-off came from “another popular actor” who the police noted had lost a considerable sum in the game in question. A case of impressively sore losing. 

The gamble of gambling in India

The arrests come the week after a high profile case in which a young man killed himself after losing ₹20,000 (about $266) playing poker online. The man had stolen the cash from his workplace. This tragedy triggered a wave of gambling-related arrests. Shaam’s high profile bust is just the starlit tip of an iceberg.

Gambling in India is largely illegal with notable exceptions for certain parts of Goa and a number of offshore locations. Many online sites are legal in some states but not others, and enforcement has been inconsistent. As a result, there were high hopes for legalization in the last few years.

Lockdown rules O.K.

However, crackdowns like this suggest that those hopes were unjustified.

The gathering of twelve players to trade cards, chips, and filthy lucre back and forth has the additional taint of covidiocy. Chennai alone reported another 1,175 cases of COVID-19 on Thursday. And the whole state of Tamil Nadu is in lockdown at least until the 31st of August.

Because of this, the public feeling might be more enraged than usual. After all, gambling is not an uncommon hobby in India. Teen Patti — a version of three-card brag — is a popular game in India. It has even become part of the celebration of some annual holidays.

On the other hand — as in the US — access to good healthcare in India is often determined by socioeconomic factors. In nations of great wealth inequality, seeing the wealthy caught breaking the rules has a way of getting under the skin.