Balance economic benefits, social costs of gambling

Both Singapore Pools (SP) and the Singapore Turf Club (STC) will be exempted from the Remote Gambling Act, and will launch their online betting services soon ("Online betting to be introduced in next 2 months" and "Green light for online betting: Social workers warn of dangers"; last Friday).

Gambling, in any form, should not be encouraged, as it goes against the ethos of working for a living.

While detractors call for the cessation of authorised gambling outlets, proponents see them as promoting corporate social responsibility by collecting revenue and giving to charity.

Stopping or closing down all SP and STC outlets in the heartland or banning online betting is not going to stop gambling but will instead drive punters to place their bets with illegal bookies. This is the reason why legalised gambling was introduced in the 1960s to control widespread illegal gambling.

While safeguards are in place, the young, who are tech-savvy, are the most vulnerable to becoming addicted to gambling.

There is also the concern that they can find ways and means to access some illegal gambling websites which are blocked by the authorities.

The issue is why money on illegal bets should go to the bookies instead of the authorities and approved gaming organisations and used as revenue for social purposes.

I can understand the added efforts social workers and the National Council on Problem Gambling would have to put in to reduce the impact of problem gambling on individuals, their families and societies.

At the end of the day, there is a social cost involved, and a balance has to be struck between the economic benefits and social consequences of gambling.

Andrew Seow Chwee Guan

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 03, 2016, with the headline 'Balance economic benefits, social costs of gambling'. Print Edition | Subscribe