175,680 excluded from Singapore's two casinos

Visitors stand outside the casino at Genting Singapore Plc's Resorts World Sentosa, in Singapore, on Wednesday, May 12, 2010. The number of people who are not allowed to enter Singapore's two casinos has reached a high of 175,680. -- FILE PHOTO:
Visitors stand outside the casino at Genting Singapore Plc's Resorts World Sentosa, in Singapore, on Wednesday, May 12, 2010. The number of people who are not allowed to enter Singapore's two casinos has reached a high of 175,680. -- FILE PHOTO: BLOOMBERG

Number of exclusion orders jumps almost four times from 2011; figure likely to rise

The number of people who are not allowed to enter Singapore's two casinos has reached a high of 175,680.

This is almost four times the 47,178 placed under exclusion orders in June 2011 - the first time such figures were released after the safeguard against problem gambling was introduced four years ago.

People can apply to have family members kept out. Individuals too may put themselves under self-exclusion orders if they think they are better off not being exposed to the temptations of gambling.

Latest figures from the National Council on Problem Gambling (NCPG) show 130,556 people were under self-exclusion orders as of last month. Of this number, 118,672 - or about 90 per cent - are foreigners living or working here.

Some 43,565 - either undischarged bankrupts, those on financial aid schemes or with rental arrears - are automatically barred under third-party exclusion orders. The remaining 1,559 are on family exclusion orders.

Casino exclusion statistics are cumulative, which means they remain in force once gamblers are placed under them until they are revoked, which can only be done after a year.

The council has not disclosed how many people have applied to revoke the orders so far.

The NCPG and counsellors say the rising number of exclusion orders shows a growing awareness that such safeguards can help people avoid problem gambling.

"At the start, people didn't know where and how to apply for it but now a lot of gamblers are aware and they force themselves to get it as they know they are becoming addicted to gambling," said Ms Jolene Ong, executive director of The Silver Lining, which runs gambling rehabilitation programmes.

Mr Dick Lum from One Hope Centre, which runs gambling support groups, expects the number of exclusion orders to double in the next few years as the centre is seeing more people seeking help for gambling addiction.

About 1,600 people called the centre's hotline and 300 more walked in for one-on-one counselling last year, a 30 per cent increase from 2011.

While the number of self-exclusion orders has risen steadily over the years, the number of third-party exclusion orders has fluctuated because people come on and go off as their financial situations change, counsellors say.

"A good number of those on financial aid are on it only for an interim period," added Ms Ong.

Counsellors add that the number of family exclusion orders remains small because it is hard for family members to apply for a ban for their loved ones without causing friction at home.

"No one wants to air dirty linen in public and some wives do not want to report their husbands, to save their marriages for their children's sake," said Mr Lum.

Yet, 494 women applied for such orders for their husbands, making wives the biggest group among those applying for family exclusion orders. The rest are parents who applied for their children, or siblings applying on behalf of their brothers or sisters.

Observers say more employers are also encouraging their foreign workers to go under self-exclusion orders.

"It has been gaining impetus among foreign workers and many employers also facilitate it as they want to protect their workers from the harm of problem gambling," said a spokesman for the NCPG.

The two casinos opened three years ago amid concerns that more people might fall into problem gambling. But figures released by the Casino Regulatory Authority last month show that only 7.7 per cent of local adult residents have made more than one visit to either casino.

The authority added that the vast majority of the remaining 92.3 per cent - both Singaporeans and permanent residents - did not set foot in a casino at all.

jantai@sph.com.sg