Maintain tough stance on gambling

According to figures published by a British gambling consultancy in 2014, Singaporeans are the second-biggest gamblers in the world. Each adult resident incurred an average of $1,189 in losses.

As of Dec 31, there were 2,116 family exclusion orders, 233,481 active self-exclusion orders, and 41,849 automatic exclusion orders issued to bar problem gamblers from our casinos.

Two key service organisations dedicated to problem gambling - the Thye Hua Kwan Problem Gambling Recovery Centre and the National Addictions Management Service - have seen a rapid increase in cases; these centres handled a combined 2,700 cases between 2012 and 2014.

Given this sorry state of affairs, I do not see any merit in legalising online gambling ("Legal online betting may be available soon"; Sept 15).

First, and most obviously, providing a legal channel for this manner of activity can be interpreted as implicit endorsement from the state. It removes any stigma associated with it, which encourages individuals to take up the habit.

The Internet also provides tremendous ease of access. By gaining the ability to game whenever and wherever they wish, gamblers are likely to dig themselves even deeper into debt.

Second, the unique nature of the Internet also makes policing extremely difficult.

Any access-control measures implemented for a government-sanctioned gaming portal could be easily circumvented with the use of virtual private networks (VPNs) and other techniques.

If the state-endorsed service is perceived as too restrictive or inferior, gamblers will simply turn to illegal channels, which defeats the purpose of the entire exercise.

Rather than encourage the proliferation of this social ill, the Government should maintain a tough stance on gambling.

It is far easier to control who has access to physical gaming facilities, as well as the number and locations of such facilities.

A balance must be struck between making gambling accessible - so as to prevent the growth of a black market - and keeping gambling in check.

Online gambling in any form would seriously disrupt this balance.

Paul Chan Poh Hoi