Gambling dens scare mall shoppers

More than 50 people run gambling stalls each Friday outside a city mall, The National has learnt.

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ABU DHABI //Gambling and the selling of pirated CDs and DVDs is taking place every Friday along the narrow alleyways and in the pedestrian underpass near the Madinat Zayed Shopping Centre car park.

After receiving complaints from residents, The National recently visited the area and found five gambling tables manned by dozens of men – and they were doing brisk business.

A gang of men from various South Asian countries were working for each of the tables. Two were standing on street corners as look-outs, two shuffled playing cards on the table and two or three more were enticing workers to gamble their hard-earned money.

Noor Ahmed, from Bangladesh, said he witnessed the men being forced to flee, leaving behind their gaming tables, when police were seen nearby. But when the police left, the gambling started up again.

“It gives a bad name to Abu Dhabi when these guys gamble in the open,” he said. “I don’t like these activities happening in the city.”

Shoppers who used the alleyways to get to the mall were alarmed by the illegal activities, and insisted something must be done to stop them.

“It’s very difficult to walk through because the gamblers stand and stare at passers-by looking for a potential customer,” said Nida Motin, an Abu Dhabi resident from the Philippines. “As a woman I feel very unsafe.”

Some women covered their faces as they passed. One, who declined to be named, said: “These activities must end. It’s difficult to walk through this place.”

As well as the gambling, men also used the area to sell pirated CDs and DVDs for Dh3 each in the pedestrian underpass in front of the shopping centre.

Farhatullah Khan, who was walking by, said the gambling and counterfeit goods sales could be seen frequently.

Mr Khan, from India, said many labourers who came to the market to do their weekly shopping were easily tempted to gamble. “If you watch closely, you can see that their own people put the money in the game to entice other workers,” he said.

Sometimes, the gambling tables could be found during weekdays as well, he said.

A security guard in the car park said the gambling stalls and gamblers were a source of trouble for residents, shoppers and passers-by. “They are there mostly on Fridays when huge numbers of workers visit the shopping centre,” he said.

Abu Dhabi Police did not respond to requests for comment.