Tougher gambling safeguards needed

From my experience in helping a family member who is addicted to gambling, I find that there are several shortcomings in our government policies to prevent and help gambling addicts.

Currently, family members can apply to exclude a gambler from the casinos, but the gambler is able to revoke the exclusion and return. The family should be given the authority to reject the revocation.

There is also a non-casino self-exclusion policy in place, which applies to private clubs with lottery facilities. However, the clubs' participation in the scheme is voluntary, and the gambler must be a member of the club for the exclusion to apply.

The policy should be legally enforced and cover all regulated private clubs, even small football clubs with just a jackpot facility. Non-members should also be covered, and family members should be allowed to exclude them.

Easy cash is a factor that supports a gambler's bad habits and causes him to incur huge debts.

Credit facilities provided by banks and private credit companies are easily accessible and quickly approved. Gamblers are able to sign up for new loans, leaving helpless family members to repay their debts.

It would be ideal to have a mechanism in place so family members or friends can declare a gambler's debts, which would affect his ability to get new loans.

Access is also a significant factor in a gambling addiction. My family member became addicted when he could conveniently drive to jackpot machines in places like the casinos and football clubs.

The recent approval of online betting services by Singapore Pools and Turf Club is disappointing ("Online betting to be introduced in next 2 months"; Sept 30).

Gambling has the same nature as taking drugs. Preventing people from getting started and cutting off the supply lines are the best strategies.

I hope the authorities can provide more well-rounded policies to help the public and their family members in the fight against this habit that weakens our society and breaks up families.

Ang See Lin