Singapore

More Singaporeans seek help for gambling even as casino levies drop

Last year, 967 people were counselled, the highest number since 2014 when 1,035 were counselled

More people are seeking help for their gambling problems, even as fewer Singaporeans and permanent residents (PRs) visit the casinos of the two integrated resorts that opened in 2010.

Last year, 967 people were counselled - the highest number since 2014 when 1,035 people were counselled, according to data from the National Council on Problem Gambling (NCPG).

They were counselled at the NCPG's three appointed agencies - the Resilienz Clinic, Psychealth Practice and THK Centre for Family Harmony - as well as the National Addictions Management Service.

But the total number of gamblers seeking help was much higher. At least five groups helping gamblers here are not appointed by the NCPG.

For example, 580 individuals went to the Blessed Grace Social Services for help last year, almost double the 315 in 2015.

Casino levies collected by the Tote Board have plunged since the casinos opened - indicating that gambling there may have lost its novelty and appeal among locals.

But counsellors reckon more people could still be in trouble owing to debt incurred elsewhere, such as online gambling platforms.

On Wednesday last week, the Government said Marina Bay Sands and Resorts World Sentosa will spend about $9 billion to build new attractions and will also be allowed to expand their gambling operations.

 

At the same time, social safeguards have been enhanced, with the daily casino entry levy for Singaporeans and PRs raised from $100 to $150 and the annual levy from $2,000 to $3,000 since April 4.

TOTE BOARD

The Tote Board collected $131 million in casino entry levies for the 12 months that ended March last year.

This is a 41 per cent fall from the $223 million collected in the 12 months that ended in March 2011, the first full financial year after the casinos opened in 2010.

The sum of entry levies collected has been falling year on year since the casinos opened. However, the Tote Board did not reveal the number of local visitors each year.

The Casino Regulatory Authority had previously said Singaporeans and PRs made an average of 17,000 visits a day in 2012, down from 20,000 visits a day in 2010 when the casinos first opened.

Another factor behind the fall in visits by locals is that many addicts have banned themselves - or their families have barred them - from the casinos, said We Care Community Services executive director Tham Yuen Han.

At the end of last year, 348,856 people had banned themselves - up 83 per cent from 190,927 in 2014.

More of these self-exclusions are made by Singaporeans and PRs, with 25,759 locals banning themselves last year, compared to 14,877 in 2014. The rest are foreigners.

Counsellors say casino gambling here is not as big a problem as online gambling, usually on football matches, as gamblers can bet on credit online.

Last year's World Cup in Russia could have seen more people incur heavy debts on betting, they added. The previous high of 1,035 people getting counselled, in 2014, was another World Cup year.

If you need help, call the National Problem Gambling Helpline at 1800-6668-668

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