Online betting: Fear of rise in addiction

Punters queueing to buy tickets for the New Year Toto Draw at People’s Park Centre.
Punters queueing to buy tickets for the New Year Toto Draw at People’s Park Centre. PHOTO: ST FILE

Social workers and consumers alike have expressed concern over a possible move to let lottery operators Singapore Pools and the Singapore Turf Club run online betting services.

While some consumers welcome the convenience of such services, they noted that this may spark a rise in gambling addiction problems, especially among the young.

Mr Alan Lee, a photographer, believes that such online betting services could encourage recreational punters to place bets more frequently. "Gambling can be addictive, and if it becomes too easily accessible from the comfort of one's home, then it will be tempting to bet more often," said Mr Lee, 57, who buys 4-D tickets occasionally.

DANGER OF FALLING INTO DEBT

The danger is not just addiction, especially among the younger generation who lack self-discipline. There's also the danger of debt issues and them turning to stealing to repay their debts.

MS DEBORAH QUECK, who counsels gambling addicts at non-profit organisation Eternal Grace Community Services.

He added that public education efforts, especially in schools and community centres, should be strengthened.

Calling the move "a bad idea", driver Mohd Halim, 40, said the young, who are more Internet savvy, would become more prone to gambling for fun.

 

Ms Deborah Queck, 48, who counsels gambling addicts at non-profit organisation Eternal Grace Community Services, said: "The danger is not just addiction, especially among the younger generation who lack self-discipline.

"There's also the danger of debt issues and them turning to stealing to repay their debts."

Mr S. Iswaran, who was then Second Minister for Home Affairs, noted two years ago that an exemption to a blanket ban on online gambling in no way relaxed Singapore's stance against the vice. Pointing out how the activity could be driven underground, he noted that the exemption was instead "part of an ecosystem that seeks to minimise the law and order concerns, and social consequences that we are concerned about".

Financial adviser Nicholas Lee, 28, who has bet on football games and Toto, said he would use the online service if it is not too inconvenient to set up an account. "When I tried to set up a membership account with Singapore Pools, it required a proof of income statement. That was too much of a hassle," he said, referring to a service that allows people to place bets with Singapore Pools over the phone after setting up a membership account.

Bank manager Sendha Arumugam, however, is not keen on using the service.

The 43-year-old, who bets on Toto once in a while, was concerned about fake websites. She said: "It could be difficult to tell the official websites apart from the fake ones. There is a danger of people going online to bet and ending up being scammed."

• Additional reporting by Melissa Lin

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 15, 2016, with the headline 'Online betting: Fear of rise in addiction'. Print Edition | Subscribe