With ease of access, more will be tempted

I read with concern the news about the possible legalising of online betting ("Legal online betting may be available soon"; yesterday).

Is the Government ready to deal with the social repercussions of legalising online betting?

By making betting convenient, we are effectively lowering the barriers to entry for many Singaporeans who could easily start gambling from the comfort of their homes.

Many of our young people are "digital natives" who have grown up with the Internet being a large part of their lives.

By legalising online betting, what is the message that the Government is sending to this generation?

What is stopping young people from getting hooked on online betting if it is readily accessible on a platform that they are already so familiar with?

The reason given to support legalising online gaming is that an outright ban could drive illegal remote gambling activity underground.

By the same logic, wouldn't the legalisation of online sales of recreational drugs discourage the illegal peddling of drugs?

Gambling is, in many ways, like recreational drugs.

Both gambling and recreational drugs are harmful to the individual - they alter the brain reward system in a way that creates an addiction that can be satisfied only with more gambling/drugs - and to society.

While the short-term effects of drugs may be more apparent and palpable (hallucinations, seizures, even death), the long-term effects of drugs and gambling, such as the erosion of societal values and the disintegration of the family unit, will creep up on us insidiously. This certainly cannot be ignored.

The detrimental effects that could be brought on by the legalisation of online gambling are at odds with the Government's efforts to promote a healthy family unit and societal values.

I strongly urge the Government not to legalise online betting.

Leonard Leng Qi An (Dr)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 16, 2016, with the headline 'With ease of access, more will be tempted'. Print Edition | Subscribe