Close to $8 billion a year spent on gaming

Turnover for 4-D, Toto, the Singapore Sweep and sports betting grew even after the casinos opened in 2010.
Turnover for 4-D, Toto, the Singapore Sweep and sports betting grew even after the casinos opened in 2010.MY PAPER FILE PHOTO

Singapore punters bet close to $8 billion a year on 4-D, Toto, horse racing, soccer and other games - more than the combined revenue of the two casinos.

With the exception of horse racing, the turnover for 4-D, Toto, the Singapore Sweep and sports betting such as on soccer matches continued to grow even after the casinos opened five years ago.

According to CIMB Research, the combined gross gaming revenue for the two casinos here for 2013, the latest full year available, was $7.66 billion.

Compare that to the $7.89 billion turnover for games run by Singapore Pools and Singapore Turf Club for their financial year that ended in March last year.

The bulk of that sum - $6.34 billion - came from Singapore Pools, which offers 4-D, Toto, Singapore Sweep and sports betting such as on soccer matches and motor races. The Singapore Turf Club runs the horse races.

There was no breakdown of revenue by game in the Singapore Totalisator Board (Tote Board) annual reports and it declined to reveal that information.

Both Singapore Pools and the Turf Club are agents of the Tote Board, a statutory board under the Finance Ministry.

One casualty of the casinos' presence appears to be horse racing. The Turf Club's turnover has fallen steadily in the last five years, from $2.1 billion in the financial year ended March 2010 to $1.55 billion in the year ended last March.

Those who counsel gambling addicts say some have switched from horse racing to the casinos for a bigger thrill and the hope of bigger wins.

They also point out that serious betting on horse racing and soccer matches has been taking place online, illegally.

Online gambling syndicates are known to offer gamblers credit, and gamblers say the online operators offer better odds.

One estimate by consultants who study the gambling industry is that online betting accounted for at least half a billion dollars in Singapore last year.

To curb the growing menace of online gambling, the Government passed a law last October to ban gambling on unlicensed websites and, last Monday, the Government started blocking hundreds of such sites.

But gamblers told The Sunday Times that new sites have already sprung up to replace those blocked by the Government. Some are also using Virtual Private Network services to bypass the blocks and gain access to the barred sites.

The Global Betting and Gaming Consultancy, a British firm, found that on a per head basis, every person in Singapore spent almost US$1,300 (S$1,760) on gambling in 2012, second only to Macau's US$68,500. Australia took third spot at almost US$1,000 per person.

Its Global Gambling Report covered 194 countries and territories and examined data from Singapore Pools, the Turf Club and the casinos, and divided the total bets by the population.

A National Council on Problem Gambling (NCPG) spokesman said that the percentage of Singapore residents who gamble has remained stable in the past decade.

Its 2014 survey released last Thursday found that about half of the 3,000 citizens and permanent residents aged 18 and older who were surveyed had gambled in at least one game in the past year.

The proportion of pathological and problem gamblers, or those addicted to gambling, has fallen to just 0.7 per cent of the population, down from 2.6 per cent in its 2011 survey. However, these addicts are starting younger and gambling harder than before.

The NCPG spokesman said: "The majority of Singaporeans do not have issues with problem gambling."

theresat@sph.com.sg