In a talcum powder filled basement in Western Sydney, a number of uncles in stained white singlets sit around a small board flicking the striker with a sharp snap, smoking ‘beedi’ cigarettes, staining their teeth red with paan parag and raking in millions.
These are the ‘Carrom Kakas,’ the kings of an Australia-wide underground carrom board empire, uncovered for the first time by an intrepid SAARI reporter, whose name has been withheld for safety reasons.
Carrom is a South Asian tabletop game akin to pool, originating in India. It features small wooden sliding disks that go into pockets when hit with a ‘striker’ by a flick of the fingers. The Pakistan Carrom Foundation still maintains that carrom is the fastest growing game in the world, however SAARI Collective has not been able to verify these claims.
Carrom Kaka gambling rings are crippling families in Australia, causing misery and serious ripple effects.
“Big Chacha” (name changed for protection) detailed to SAARI the prolific extent of Carrom Kaka underground clubs throughout Australia, concentrated in the suburbs of Dandenong and Tarneit in Melbourne, and Parramatta and Harris Park in Sydney.
When asked if he was part of the Carrom Kakas leadership, Big Chacha replied, “What are you talking about? I do import export only - of ayurvedic and homoeopathic medicine.”
“I lost all of my family’s visa money.”
Many carrom addicts have lost their life savings to the Carrom Kakas.
Jaswinder had saved $30,000 to pay legal fees to finance his family's visa application.
However, the day before payment was due, Jaswinder went missing. In desperation, his family in India called on their local Aussie community connections in the IT field.
Through a mobile phone trace by a friend, Jaswinder was found sobbing on the floor of a Harris Park basement, having lost to a 15 year old carrom prodigy by shooting the striker into the hole, thus missing his turn and passing on the winning strike.
“What started with $5 on the rani (queen) just escalated. Next thing I knew, I was putting my family's savings on the line,” a distraught Jaswinder told SAARI.
“Now it’s all gone. How will I get my family to Australia now?”
For Pooja M, her husband’s carrom gambling losses came as a total surprise. After returning home from a Hot Healing Bikram Yoga-laties class, Pooja saw the family car was missing and called Triple Zero. She believed the car had been stolen, but later discovered her husband had lost it in a wild night of carrom.
“A giant man in sunglasses waved at me through the window of my own Honda Accord as he drove off,” Pooja recounts emotionally. “But he left the correct paperwork.”
SAARI’s investigation revealed carrom gamblers have filed a series of WorkSafe claims for finger injuries sustained at work, which were later discovered to be fraudulent, caused by over-flicking of the carrom striker.
The problem has spread to all levels of Australian society, from customs to politics.
Crown Casino has been found stocking talcum powder and beedis as well offering finger massages to high rollers. However, they deny involvement in any carrom related activities.
The Australian Border Force recently uncovered 400kgs of fake ivory strikers imported from Kenya via India.
“We’ve seen many things arrive on Air India. This is by far the most absurd,” says Michael Kennedy, Senior Investigator in the customs division.
But many people are still in denial. Gamblers Anonymous Australia have refused to comment. An unofficial spokesperson confirmed they do not acknowledge the existence of underground Carrom Kaka rings.
Aussies punters being seduced by carrom’s exotic allure
Aussies with a love of gambling have been bought into the carrom rings. Strong-fingered tradies in particular have flocked to Carrom Kaka clubs.
“I thought it was awesome to have a public holiday created for betting on horses but nothing compares to carrom. Melbourne Cup should be renamed Carrom Cup!” says newfound carrom enthusiast Paul ‘Streak’ Morrison.
From Carrom Kaka's Aussie carrom instruction manual
A few local politicians have learned of this pervasive problem, calling for a ban to prevent the corruption of the Aussie ‘fair go’.
“It’s such a shame to see this. Why can’t we go back to a time where Australians were losing their money in more respectable ways like betting on horses and at the pokies,” says Bruce N Kelly, leader of the Australians For More Responsible Gamling party.
New generation roped into carrom addiction
The Carrom Kakas have been found targeting children, working to form an early affinity with carrom by creating carrom boards using popular children’s characters like The Paw Patrol.
SAARI found carrom punters of South Asian backgrounds attempting to train their own children for the infamous International Carrom ‘Star Hero Kids’ competitions.
While this has sparked great concern at temples, mosques, churches and overzealous tutoring groups, there has been no official action taken. Australia’s Child Safety Commissioner has also refused to comment.
But SAARI can confirm there is a new generation emerging in Australia addicted to carrom.
14-year-old Arjun Singh Patel told SAARI he plays carrom every day for at least 6 hours. He told our reporter that his younger brother, “Lost his lunch money everyday for the past two months by losing pathetically to him. His flick is weak. He needs to practice.”
For SAARI readers, we encourage you to stand up against the Carrom Kakas.
Be watchful. Report suspicious activity. Protect your children. And have a great April Fool’s Day.
SAARI's Undercover Unit is a team of highly skilled South Asian Australian investigative journalists you won't ever see coming.