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Singapore Tightens Rules on Casinos

Singapore is revising its casino rules to discourage low-income groups and the jobless from gambling. After weeks of consultation, the government has filed the Casino Control (Amendment) Bill which would empower authorities to restrict the entry of ‘financially vulnerable’ individuals in casino gaming centers. The provision as stated in a government press release:

Committees of the National Council on Problem Gambling (NCPG) will be empowered to issue visit limits to local, financially vulnerable casino patrons who visit the casinos frequently. Families and individuals may also apply for visit limits in addition to the current family and voluntary self-exclusion.

Provisional family exclusion orders can be made if there is a need to act urgently to protect the family from further severe harm. Exclusion orders can also be made if respondents to the orders cannot be located or are uncooperative.

Singapore Marina Bay Sands. Photo from Flickr page of milpool79

At present, Singapore locals and permanent residents must pay an entry levy of S$100 and annual entry levy of S$2,000 if they want to play in the casinos. In the past 18 months, the government earned $288 million from casino levies. Asia Singapore notes the casino boom in Singapore:

Although they are supposedly meant for tourists, many residents visit and many are also addicted to gambling there.

If you take $100 as the cost of entry to casino by residents, it makes $2.88 million visits in 18 months (Actually many visits cost less because there is a $2,000 yearly pass so number of visits is much higher. I do not know any other attraction this much popular in Singapore!

Chun Han Wong writes that gambling has actually declined in Singapore but he is worried about the gambling addiction affecting low-income residents:

… the social experiment has yielded mixed results, pressuring authorities to do more to contain gambling ills even as the global slowdown and rising competition threaten growth in the country's fledgling casino industry.

…the feared rise in organized crime never materialized, and gambling overall in the city-state has actually declined. But government leaders are concerned about surveys that indicate more low-income residents are betting larger sums and frequent gamblers are playing more often, while more people are seeking counseling for gambling troubles. Anecdotal reports of problem gamblers in the local media—some of whom have turned to crime to fund their gambling addictions—have also alarmed people.

Roger Poh advises the government to use the casino revenues to help the elderly:

These are astronomical sums so naturally many people have been wondering what the government has been doing with this windfall. It claims that the bonanza is used to provide support and care for Singaporeans.

Now I don’t think many people are satisfied with this claim. Can the government spell out specifically how it has been using this bonanza to help Singaporeans?

If there is one group of people the bonanza can be of tremendous help, the elderly poor surely rank high up on the list of priorities.

Loh and Behold thinks the casino center has become Singapore’s new icon:

…the casinos are operating in full force now and Marina Bay Sands is fast replacing the Merlion as our national icon, not that the hermaphrodite Merlion is anything to be proud of really, but at least it is original and unique.

Isn’t that great? Ours must be the only country in the world with a casino as our national emblem or symbol. (If you don’t believe me, just do an online search on “Singapore” and see what picture shows up.)

Convex Set wants more ‘effective barriers’ to ‘prevent gambling-led destitution’:

It strikes me that while the casinos were advertised to be an additional draw in our tourism portfolio, with an “effective” barrier to locals frittering away their hard-earned (and low by international standards) salaries in the form of levies, they have nevertheless “been very effective at drawing locals”.

I believe that this is undesirable and it is important that more effective barriers to entry be put up to prevent gambling-led destitution.

I think we have to be smarter about dealing with the gambling problem. What we have is grossly insufficient.

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