VR gaming gears up for the mainstream


A group of gamers wearing VR headsets at Zero Latency Singapore. The VR arcade in Singapore is the latest to pop up around the world as backers of the technology seek to shake off teething problems and break into the mainstream. — AFP

Arcades seek to take virtual reality gaming mainstream

 

SINGAPORE: Gamers wearing headsets and wielding rifles adorned with flashing lights battle a horde of zombies, letting out the occasional terrified shriek.

The virtual reality arcade in Singapore is part of a wave of such venues being opened as backers of the technology seek to shake off teething problems and break into the mainstream.

The buzz around virtual reality (VR) gaming has seen Taiwan-based HTC, Sony and Facebook-owned Oculus VR battling to woo consumers with a range of headgear.

But it has been slow to really take off, partly due to the hefty price of top-end headsets, beginning at around US$350 (RM1,362), and the challenges in setting up complex VR systems at home.
But VR arcades, which have been springing up around the world, particularly in Asia, are now giving people the chance to try it out more easily and for a fraction of the price.

“Given the complications of at-home, PC-based VR systems, pay-per-use, location-based entertainment venues can fill the gap,” said Bryan Ma, from International Data Corporation (IDC), a consumer technology market research firm, in a recent note on the industry.

Several VR gaming companies have made forays into Singapore, seeing the ultra-modern, affluent city-state that is home to hordes of expatriates as a good fit.

The zombie fight-out was taking place at a centre where participants stalked a room with a black floor and walls.

“I did paintball before, it’s quite fun… but I think the whole scene is much more interesting here,” said Jack Backx, a 55-year-old from the Netherlands, who was playing with colleagues from the oil and gas industry on a work day out.

The location is run by VR gaming group Zero Latency, which started in Australia and has expanded to nine countries. It uses “free-roam” virtual reality – where gamers move around in large spaces and are not tethered to computers with cables.

It’s not all intense, shoot-’em-ups – VR group Virtual Room has an outlet in Singapore that transports gamers to scenarios in the prehistoric period, a medieval castle, ancient Egypt and even a lunar landing.

Asia leads the way

VR arcades have been springing up in other places. China was an early hotbed for virtual reality gaming although the industry has struggled in recent times, while they can also be found in countries across the region including Japan, Taiwan and Australia.

Many key industry milestones over the past two years have been in Asia but arcades have appeared elsewhere – London’s first one opened last year while there are also some in the United States.

Consumer spending on virtual reality hardware, software and services is expected to more than double from US$2.2bil (RM8.56bil) in 2017, to US$4.5bil (RM17.51bil) this year, according to gaming intelligence provider SuperData Research.

For the best-quality experience, it can be relatively expensive – a session in Singapore costs Sg$59 (RM175).

“The equipment here is not cheap,” said Simon Ogilvie, executive director of Tomorrow Entertainment, which runs the Zero Latency franchise in Singapore.

The industry faces huge challenges.

China offers a cautionary tale – according to IDC, VR arcades have struggled there after expanding too quickly.

There have also been warnings that improvements in home-based technology may eventually lead to VR gaming centres suffering the same fate as traditional arcades that were once filled with Pac-Man and Street Fighter machines.

“The rise and fall of coin-operated videogame arcades in the 1980s suggests that such VR arcades may eventually fade in relevance as home-based computing power and prices fall within mass consumer reach,” said the note from IDC’s Ma.

Rebecca Assice, who runs Virtual Room in Singapore, said one challenge was getting people interested in the first place as many still did not know about the arcades.

“VR is still a really new industry,” she said. “A lot of people just don’t know this sort of activity exists.” — AFP

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What parents need to know about VR ?


The hottest tech in videogames is virtual reality. Find out its potential effects on kids before buying a headset.

 

VR can make you think and feel things you know aren’t real. —Dreamstime/TNS
EVERYONE who’s tried it agrees: virtual reality is mind-blowing. Once you strap on that headset, you truly believe you’re strolling on a Parisian street, careening on a roller coaster, or immersed in the human body exploring the inner workings of the oesophagus.

But for all its coolness – and its potential uses, from education to medicine – not a lot is known about how VR affects kids. Common sense Media’s new report, Virtual Reality 101: What You Need to Know About Kids and VR, co-authored by the founding director of stanford University’s virtual Human Interaction Lab, offers a first-of-its-kind overview of the expanding uses for the technology and its potential effects on kids.

Now that VR devices from inexpensive viewers to game consoles to full-scale gaming arcades are finally here – with lots more coming soon – it’s a good idea to start thinking about how to manage VR when it comes knocking at your door.

VR can make you think and feel things you know aren’t real. Other media can give you the sense of “being there” – what’s called psychological presence – but not to the extent that VR can. This unique ability is what makes it so important to understand more about the short- and long-term effects of the technology on kids. Here are some of the key findings from the report.

Even though we don’t yet have all the answers to how vR affects kids, we know enough to consider some pros and cons. And whether kids are using vR through a mobile device like Google Cardboard, on a console like the Playstation vR, on a fully tricked-out desktop rig like the Oculus Rift, or at a mall arcade, these guidelines can help you keep any vR experience your kids have safe and fun.

Pay attention to age ratings. Check the recommended age on the headset package and don’t let younger kids use products designed for older kids. The minimum age isn’t based on medical proof of adverse effects on the brain and vision, but it’s the manufacturer’s best guess as to who the product is safest for.

Choose games wisely. Because the vR game experience can be more intense than that of regular games, it’s even more important to check reviews to make sure the gameplay, the content and the subject matter are appropriate for your kid.

Keep it safe. A few precautions: Once you have the goggles on, orient yourself to the room by touching the walls; stick to short sessions until you know how you’re affected by vR; stay seated if possible; move furniture out of the way; and have a second person as a spotter.

Pay attention to feelings – both physical and emotional. If you’re feeling sick to your stomach, dizzy, drained, or sad, angry, or anxious – give it a rest for a while.

Talk about experiences. since vR feels so real, it’s an excellent time to talk through what your kid has experienced in a game. Ask what it felt like, what the differences are between vR and regular games, and how vR helps you connect to other people’s experiences by putting you in someone else’s shoes.

Find opportunities; avoid pitfalls. Don’t let your kids play vR games that mimic experiences you wouldn’t want them to have in real life, such as using violent weapons. On the other hand, take advantage of vR that exposes kids to things they wouldn’t normally get to see, feel, and learn, such as visiting a foreign country.

Keep privacy in mind. Devices that can track your movements – including eye movements – could store that data for purposes that haven’t yet been invented. — Common sense Media/Tribune news service.

Star2 Technology  by Caroline Knorr

The tyranny of Pokemon Go, more addictive than other games


It’s repetitive. The ‘game play’ is puerile. But it does cast a spell on players.

Malaysia, a plague has just arrived in your land and, if the rest of the world is any indication, it will infect every corner of your society. I’m talking of course about the infectious tyranny that is Pokemon Go. Really.

This is a game with very little in actual game play. You throw Pokeballs at Pokemon that spawn seemingly all over your neighbourhood, on your friends, and even in your own home. You capture them to fight other Pokemon, then you wash, rinse, repeat.

The battle aspect comes down to swiping right and tapping your screen a bunch of times. It’s not exactly the most nuanced or skilled or even fun game play in the world but yet, Pokemon Go has taken over the world.

I didn’t quite understand it until it arrived in Hong Kong, but suddenly on the street people were face down in their phones even more so than usual. And whenever I snuck a look there was a little critter bouncing around on their screens that they were trying to capture by tossing Pokeballs at it.

Silly. Ridiculous. So of course, yours truly had to try it.

And of course, yours truly got addicted just like everyone else.

Really, the game should be called Pokecrack or something a little more indicative of its addictive nature. Walking the dog at night, I seek out the local gyms – Pokemon Go locations where you can train or battle other Pokemon, but only at certain locations in the city – see, that’s why it’s got the “Go” in its name, this isn’t a game you can play from home – and at all these locations, even at midnight, I find people milling around in their pyjamas outside, with their faces stuck to their phones. Me included.

I went to a bar to meet a friend the other day and of course we started hunting Pokemon while there, which quite a few others were already doing. On the way out to the pay the bill the barkeep invited us back on Saturday because they would be “buying lures all day to attract more Pokemon”. Yes, Pokemon is now a way to attract people to your business.

Pikachu, I choose you.

But why is this game so addictive? I just said the game play was infantile. So simple that it boggles the mind. And it is. But everything in Pokemon Go centres on the rewards of new and exotic Pokemon and levelling up.

Basically it’s a game that hinges on the Random Reward Schedule.

The Random Reward Schedule is a tenet of behavioural psychology. It’s a form of reinforcement. Reinforcement, of course, “strengthens an organism’s future behaviour whenever that behaviour is preceded by a specific antecedent stimulus”. That’s a mouthful.

Basically, what it’s saying is that you will continue to do a thing if you get positive feedback.

This all goes back to the research of B.F. Skinner, who noted that the variable reward schedule or the random reward schedule resulted in the most compulsive and addictive behaviour in mice. Basically, mice were trained to press a lever that would dispense treats.

The mice that were rewarded with a treat every time were less inclined to keep pressing the lever, than the mice that were rewarded with a large treat at random intervals. The idea being that when a mouse thinks there could be a nice reward just around the corner, it will keep performing the same action.

The same goes for humans.

In Pokemon Go you’re constantly checking for Pokemon appearing in your vicinity. Most times they are common ones like Pidgeys or Caterpies, but every once in a while, you find something exciting like a Vaporean or an Electabuzz. And yes, I know how nerdy this sounds right now. Those rare and exotic Pokemon are just like large treats to a mouse.

The random reward schedule is linked to the Hook Model which is a technique employed by social media and mobile game designers and, of course the designers of Pokemon Go. Its mission – the name gives it away – is to hook you.

It goes beyond simple reinforcement of behaviour; it’s all about creating habits so that we’ll continue doing something the designers want us to do. In this case, it’s to continue searching for Pokemon and hopefully spend a few of our hard-earned dollars for gear that will help us do just that.

Pokemon Go also employs another aspect of the model, and that is our need to hunt. In the evolutionary sense, we are hunters, hunting for food in the wild. Pokemon Go employs a tracking system to find those rare and exotic Pokemon so that we are literally hunting down little virtual critters. All. Day. Long.

But we’re not hunting for sustenance, now we’re just hunting for the sake of hunting. Our genetic urges are misfiring all over Pokemon Go.

And knowing that I’m being manipulated on the most fundamental level by this game, I’m still checking my phone periodically to see if any rare Pokemon have showed up. And it’s not even fun.

So what to do, now that Pokemon Go has come for … to us? It really depends. It does make you walk more, and it can make your daily commutes a little more enjoyable (depending on your definition of enjoyable) – but if you don’t like having your face stuck in your phone, then you’re better off treating Pokemon Go like drugs, and not even trying it.

By Jason Godfrey –

Catch Jason Godfrey on The LINK on Life Inspired HD (Astro Ch 728).

More addictive than other games

CATCHING virtual critters on Pokémon GO has a tendency to be more addictive than other online games.

Experts say the risk of being addicted to the highly-popular game is increased because it is a feast for the senses.

This is especially since it is an augmented reality game, which requires players to have a live direct or indirect view of their physical surroundings.

“The risk of addiction is increased as there are multiple sensory bombardments that sustain playing Pokémon GO.

“Such sensory bombardments are continuous, leading to pleasure and satisfaction highs once players level up in the game and are motivated to continue,” explains Universiti Sains Malaysia criminologist and psychologist Dr Geshina Ayu Mat Saat.

She says this can be dangerous as it makes individuals dependent on the game for pleasure or happiness and some people may confuse the two.

“It could also lead to despair when the game is concluded, when they experience problems, or when a level objective could not be met.

“These are similar responses that an addict experiences. Normal functioning is disrupted, the least being in terms of sleeping and eating patterns,” Dr Geshina says.

Other aspects that could be affected are family interaction, work-life balance, carrying out responsibilities and daily tasks.

Dr Geshina finds that there are pros and cons to playing the game.

“On one hand, players will get more physical exercise, apply problem-solving skills, and have some social interaction when they meet other players in real life,” she says.

But on the other hand, too much focus on their phones may narrow their perception, leading to selective attention on the immediate environment to fulfil the needs of the game rather than a genuine appreciation of the outdoors.

“Social interaction may be limited to brusque questions of where the characters are, rather than polite or pleasant queries to initiate meaningful conversation,” says Dr Geshina.

She also notes that there is also a possibility that players, especially children, will be unable to separate between reality and the game as it blurs the lines and makes players a living game avatar.

Malaysian Mental Health Association deputy president and consultant psychiatrist Datuk Dr Andrew Mohanraj Chandrasekaran says people are generally eager to embrace new technology and will surely warm up to augmented reality games like Pokémon GO.

Describing the game as “taking it one step further”, he says one positive point of the game is that it can motivate people to get out more and connect with others with common interests.

“This is particularly relevant to people with introverted personalities and those suffering from depression.”

Dr Andrew, however, points out that the game can be a double-edged sword and could also work negatively in making people more engrossed in their phones.

“Ultimately, technology must be embraced for the right purpose – be it for recreational, therapeutic or competitive purposes.

“Technology can also be harmful, destroy interpersonal relationship, affect social cohesion, blur the lines between appropriate and inappropriate behaviour and cause confusion between reality and the virtual world.

“Knowing how to embrace technology in a balanced manner is the answer,” he says.

Sources:  The Star/Asia News Network

Beijing wins to host Winter Olympics 2022


Beijing Winter Olympics 2022

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Chinese captital celebrates victory

The National Stadium, or Bird Nest, is seen with giant illumination showing a message celebrating Beijing and Zhangjiakou’s winning of the right to host the 2022 Winter Olympic Games.

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Beijingers celebrate Olympic victory

Beijing last night was the scene of jubilation and cheering. People celebrated the news from Kuala Lumpur.

Games offers new drive to opening-up

Beijing and Zhangjiakou have won the bid to host the 2022 Winter Olympics. It’s great.

Seven years after Beijing hosted the 2008 Summer Games, Chinese people get to embrace the Olympics again. Many still remember the passion and joy after winning the 2008 Games. Our optimism and happiness has come alive again. Chinese society is still actively seeking to host major international sports events. Such sentiment fits the country’s rising momentum.

Countries in the developed world are no longer enthusiastic about holding the Olympics like they once were. They have their own calculations. But over 90 percent of people in Beijing and Zhangjiakou support their cities’ hosting of the Winter Games. Such high rates of support is generally true in other parts of the country in hosting major international sports events.

Chinese people long for progress and more contact with the outside world. Many people consider the hosting of major sports events an opportunity to enhance a city’s development level and help it become more international.

But there are also many who oppose hosting the Winter Games. Some of them are just following the voices of popular Western-style opponents. Others have their marginal reasons. But these opinions are not mainstream in China.

It is great that many stadiums and other pieces of infrastructure built for the 2008 Beijing Olympics can still be of use for the 2022 Games.

The 2008 Summer Games can be seen as a coming-out party for China. China has made significant progress in the seven years since it hosted the event. China’s GDP leapt from the third place globally to second. Chinese people have seen more of the world.

To be frank, when Beijing hosted the 2008 Summer Games, many Chinese people were nervous that they might mess up the event. That is why the 2008 Games emphasized pomp and ceremony in order to demonstrate China’s capabilities.

This time when we host the Winter Games, we may be able to be more relaxed, focusing on the beauty of the sports instead of laboring ourselves in ensuring a perfect event. We can try to make the 2022 Games a big party.

The 2022 Winter Games is also likely to bring concrete benefits in the coming seven years. “Olympic blue” may become a new target in dealing with air pollution. A high-speed railway between Beijing and Zhangjiakou is likely. Winter sports may become more popular.

The Winter Games will become a lasting drive for China’s further opening-up. Chinese society will seek greater balance between outside criticism and China’s own principles and traditions. This project will help China further integrate with the world. – Global Times

Internet addiction taking toll on health !


Internet addiction has become a new threat to healthy living for Malaysians, depriving them of sleep and exercise, a survey by a global insurance group has found.
Internet addiction
A whopping 73% of Malaysian adults who took part in the 2013 AIA Healthy Living Index survey admitted that their online activities and social networking were getting addictive, putting the country a­­mongst those with the highest addiction rates in the Asia-Pacific region.

The poll by AIA Group covered over 10,000 adults in 15 Asia Pacific markets.

Of some 900 Malaysian respondents, 81% stated that spending time online prevented them from getting enough exercise or sleep while 80% claimed that their posture was affected.

The survey noted that this addictive trend would continue to be fuelled by children growing up with the Internet as an integral part of their lives.

On healthy living, 67% of adults in Malaysia felt that their health was not as good as it was five years ago.
Overall, Malaysia scored 61 out of 100 points in the survey.

Malaysia also fared poorly in the area of healthy habits, with 32% of adults admitting that they did not exercise regularly.

On average, Malaysians spent only 2.5 hours on exercise a week, below the regional average of three hours and below the ideal recommended by most experts.

Sufficient sleep was rated the most important driver of healthy living in Malaysia and the region.

While adults in Malaysia desired eight hours of sleep, they only had 6.4 hours on average, leading to a sleep gap of 1.6 hours, the third highest in the region.

Spending time online was listed as one of the causes of this sleep deprivation.

The survey mentioned that these not very positive health habits were aggravated by a preference for sedentary ways to relieve stress, such as watching TV or movies, playing computer or mobile games and spending time online.

Spending time with family and children or friends was also a popular way to de-stress for Malaysians.

Meanwhile, healthy food habits were still limited to the basics of drinking more water as well as eating more fruits and vegetables, although 56% of Malaysian adults were also trying to eat less sweets and snacks.

There was also much concern about obesity – 64% of Malaysian adults said they wanted to lose weight, above the regional average of 53%. Further, 93% agreed that obesity among younger people was a worrying trend.

Cancer, heart disease and being overweight were the top health concerns in Malaysia, with the former two being above regional averages.

Despite these concerns, only 50% of Malaysian adults had medical check-ups in the past 12 months.

The study found that 89% of adults in Malaysia felt that employers should help employees live a healthy lifestyle, mainly by providing free health checks, not subjecting em­­ployees to undue stress and ensuring workloads were not excessive.

AIA Bhd chief executive officer Bill Lisle said the company was committed to helping Malaysians live longer and healthier lives.

“Through this extensive survey, we are keen to identify and enhance awareness of the key trends that impact the health of adults so we can actively work with the community and our customers to promote more positive attitudes.”

Internet_HealthContributed  by Lim Ai Lee The Star/Asia News Network

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Malaysian Chinese Zombie wins the war !


Malaysian-made game a hit in China, Taiwan and Hong Kong

Zombie_Chinese
Scary source: Chan’s popular game is based on the 1980s zombie movies. 

PETALING JAYA: Malaysian zombie fans, forget Walking Dead or the Living Dead. There is a new zombie tale in town – the Chinese Zombie War.

According to its creator, Chan Kam Wai, 29, the zombies in this mobile app game are already part of Asian culture.

“They are based on the 1980s zombie movies we used to get from Hong Kong. Do you remember? Unlike the Western zombies, the Chinese zombies hopped around.

“The culture is familiar to many Asians, so when we came across it in our research for possible game ideas, we decided this was the one,” he said.

The familiarity of the horror genre resonated with many, especially from China and Taiwan, making it one of the most successful mobile apps from Malaysia.

The Chinese Zombie War was launched in May and has since become one of the Top 20 most downloaded apps in China.

“We have had more than 250,000 downloads, some 90% of the downloads are from China, Taiwan and Hong Kong,” said Chan.

Now with a second edition, Chinese Zombie War 2, the app game has generated more than RM60,000 in revenue since its launch on the Apple AppStore. It was also one of the top three most downloaded apps in China for three weeks.

The Chinese Zombie War tells of a rookie Taoist priest, Sung, who meets some Chinese zombies in the jungle. At a loss on how to fight them, he is rescued by a beautiful female ghost who trains him to defeat the living dead.

Said Chan: “Asian culture is rich and diverse, so we decided to tap into it and market it globally. Many Westerners accept Eastern culture like the Samurai, Ninja and Kung Fu culture, so it shows that they are interested in Eastern culture but may not be exposed to what else is available. We also wanted something that we could relate to.”

The Chinese Zombie War was developed under the MSC Malaysia Integrated Content Development Programme (Icon), one of the government initiatives run by the Multimedia Development Corp (MDeC) to drive forward the app developing industry in Malaysia.

Since Icon’s launch in 2008, 307 apps have been developed under the programme while some 1,115 people received basic programming training and over 300 were trained on mobile app developing on the iOS and Android platforms.

Unfortunately, the Chinese Zombie War is more the exception than the rule when it comes to local apps breaking into the global or even regional market.

Despite government initiatives to nurture the local app development industry, to date there are only around 680 active Malaysian app developers and some 600 Malaysian apps in the market.

This is only a fraction of the global market; earlier last week, Apple announced that its iOS App Store now has more than 1.5 million apps, which have been downloaded 60 billion times, while some US$60bil (RM192bil) have been paid out to app developers on its platform. There are an estimated 700,000 apps on the Android platform.

The app market boom is expected to grow, and as research firm Gartner estimated recently, the total number of app downloads worldwide will reach 268 billion by 2017.

MDeC Digital Enablement Division director Wan Murdani Mohamad said that about 80% of apps downloaded in Malaysia now are foreign content.

“Malaysians are overdependent on foreign content, so we need to get more local content out. Our local stories, history and culture make the ideal resource for generating content,” he said.

Once a mobile app is in the market, it is already in the global reach, so Malaysian app developers need not worry about making their content “international”, said Wan Murdani.

“You need to have an original idea to be successful as there are many apps out there. Try to globalise local content. Even Angry Birds started as a local app before it hit big.”

Contributed by Hariati Azizan The Star

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Get rid of illegal casinos gambling now !


Gambling-online-illegal
Gaming_Singapore

SINGAPORE: Police have arrested five men in a raid on an illegal gambling den in a private apartment at Geylang Road.

I REFER to “Bet illegal casinos can be weeded out” (see below). They should not be allowed to thrive. They are a nuisance and must go.

I hope the enforcement agencies work on this immediately. Stop giving excuses that this cannot be done.

Such nefarious ways and activities must be put to an end. Have the political will to do so and we will see to their demise.

What is also shocking is how illegal massage parlours, budget hotels, nightclubs, pubs, video arcades and other unhealthy businesses have cropped up of late?

Did the state governments give permission for them to operate? Whatever it is, please see to it that they stop functioning.

Their presence is bad. Trust me, nothing good comes from casinos and gambling.

Gambling is addictive and leads to compulsive gambling problems and unhealthy obsessions; it promotes crime, sin, stupidity, laziness, arrogance, greed, selfishness, entitlement and neglect of one’s family, among others.

BULBIR SINGH  Seremban

Bet illegal casinos can be weeded out

IT is known as the street that never sleeps. And for all the wrong reasons.

Because of the proliferation of gambling outlets, businesses along the same street, both legal and illegal, operate non-stop to cater to the demands of the gamblers.

In another part of the Klang Valley, one road is regarded as the hottest gambling spot in town, with 20 outlets along a single stretch.

The Star‘s investigation into the e-gambling dens in Klang, Selayang, Batu Caves, Kepong and Petaling Jaya reveal that these casinos in the streets thrive because the authorities turn a blind eye to what is going on under their jurisdictions.

Enforcement is lax even when these outlets in highly-popular zones are so easily identified.

We are not talking about illegal activities that operate in the boondocks, where their locations are tightly-kept secrets and you may need special passwords to gain access.

As our expose today on similar outlets in Penang reveals, we are talking about such illegal activities in two of the most developed states in the country.

The local authorities and enforcement agencies are certainly well-equipped to deal with situations like these.

The modus operandi seems simple enough. By day, they are typical business outlets, but by night they transform into bustling gambling dens.

The enforcers should be working round the clock to close them down.

The real action happens after dark, when not only gamblers head to these places, but also others seeking other services, like sex, to unwind after a hard day’s work.

One law enforcement official claims that the operators of the illegal e-casinos play “hide-and-seek” with the authorities and often disappear before raids are conducted.

Meanwhile, the local authorities claim that they cannot do anything about the rising gambling menace either because the residents do not complain officially or that the other enforcement agencies are not doing their part.

While that may be the case, such scenarios are common and should not be used as an excuse not to take the necessary action.

The enforcement officials can station themselves in these areas.

The licensing authorities can shut down even the legitimate businesses in the daytime if they have evidence that they are being used for illegal activities at night.

Rather than blame one another over the lack of action, everyone can, and should, work as a team to ensure that our streets come alive, in the day or at night, for only the right reasons.

Otherwise, casinos in the streets will simply spawn crime in the streets.

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