Robots in casinos

Published February 28, 2019, 12:06 AM

by Charissa Luci-Atienza & Bernie Cahiles-Magkilat



Jullie Y. Daza
Jullie Y. Daza

More than 300,000 Filipinos working over there in China. About the same number of Chinese over here holding jobs that they say Filipinos are not trained or able to do.

Those are usually jobs requiring a knowledge of Mandarin when they man the machines for online gaming. The screens “speak” only Mandarin, Mandarin being the only written language of the Chinese. (All other so-called languages are not languages but dialects, like Hokkien and Cantonese.) In other words, without these words of mine getting lost in translation, you have to be literate in Mandarin to operate their computers.

Now there’s another reason to explain the influx of Chinese tourists, overstaying or not, and transient workers. These people are called robots. Yes, robots, human ones. In the world of artificial intelligence, robots are constructed to take on the shape of human beings – round head, two arms, two legs, a torso in-between – but they’re not of flesh and blood, they don’t have the DNA of Adam and Eve, they don’t feel pain or hunger or anger. In the tech-driven world of gaming, however, robots are 100 percent human, they’re real people, paid to obey their master’s every command.

When a robot arrives in Manila, he is programmed to carry out one task and one task only. To play for his principal. Every move he makes, every bet he places is not his own but for the master who’s calling the shots from somewhere in China. The robot is a proxy.

Why the need for a proxy? Ever since Beijing cracked the whip and limited the number of foreign trips a citizen may take within a year or so, the gamblers have had to invent new ways of rolling the dice, so to speak. Some of them are so addicted that hiring a robot to play for them is their way of thinking outside the box. Clearly, the set-up may explain why, despite the ban, the Chinese continue to stream in, in droves, causing locals to grow antsy over their numbers and the jobs they’re taking away. You wanna bet, there are just too many of them to keep out with a travel ban.