Muslim leaders reiterate ills of gambling

Muslim leaders have reminded the community of the ills of gambling - including online gambling, which is "an extremely worrying trend".

In a message from the Office of the Mufti, delivered by imams at mosques across Singapore during Friday sermons yesterday, it said that Islam demands that believers strive to earn a halal income in order to enjoy the comforts of this world.

The Office of the Mufti, headed by top Muslim leader Mohamed Fatris Bakaram, added that online gambling has the potential to affect not only the person involved, but also his entire family and community.

It added: "When a person becomes addicted, they are more prone to lose control of themselves and to spiral into lawlessness."

Friday sermons are often used as a platform through which the Muslim Singaporean community is given guidance on its socio-religious life by the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (Muis).

The message comes after the Ministry of Home Affairs last month allowed two Singapore-based lottery operators to be exempted from the Remote Gambling Act passed by Parliament two years ago. The Act outlaws all online and phone betting activities.

Singapore Pools will launch online betting on Oct 25, and the Turf Club will offer its new Web and mobile platform on Nov 15. Punters can place bets for 4-D, Toto, football, Formula One and horse racing.

The authorities said operators will have to put in place safeguards, such as allowing only those above 21 to open accounts.

The Office of the Mufti noted that research has found that those who become addicted usually begin as social gamblers.

It reminded the community to educate children on the negative consequences of gambling and to take precautionary measures, which could include ensuring family members are on the list of those disallowed from licensed gambling activities, as well as monitoring the websites they frequent.

The message added: "Many gamblers have ended up being declared as bankrupts, adversely affecting the future of their children, and crushing the hopes and dreams that they used to share as a family."

Other religious bodies have weighed in, too. On Oct 5, the National Council of Churches Singapore, which represents over 250 churches, called for a review of the decision.

The Catholic Church on Oct 12 urged the Government to closely monitor the situation, and requested regular consultations and updates on the effects of its decision.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 15, 2016, with the headline 'Muslim leaders reiterate ills of gambling'. Print Edition | Subscribe