Tote Board's donations hit $1.2 billion

Projects to help needy families, the disabled and the old among key beneficiaries

The Singapore Totalisator Board approved donations to the tune of $1.2 billion for projects in a variety of areas, from helping the poor and disabled to the arts and sports, in the last financial year.

This is triple the $400 million on average it pledged each year between 2002 and 2011, according to figures the board made available to The Sunday Times.

One of the biggest grant-making organisations here, the board channels surpluses from horse-racing, 4D and Toto betting and casino-entry levies to fund hundreds of projects in six areas: social services, health care, community development, sports, arts and culture and education.

The $1.2 billion for the financial year that ended two weeks ago is a preliminary estimate and funding can be made over a number of years.

The Sunday Times understands that the biggest commitments - worth hundreds of millions of dollars - were for the social services sector, which has seen an increase in demand for services as family ties fray and poor families combat rising costs of living.

Some donations to the charity sector are channelled through the Tote Board Social Service Fund, administered by the National Council of Social Service (NCSS). Pledges to it swelled from $126.2 million in FY 2007-2009 to $164.8 million in FY 2010-2012.

"These funds have played a pivotal role in meeting the increasing demand for social services," said NCSS chief executive Ang Bee Lian. Close to half the money over the past two years went to family services, about a third to the disabled and nearly 15 per cent to eldercare, she said.

Projects to shore up health-care services - particularly community and long-term care - and sports are also believed to have received significant pledges.

The Tote Board Community Healthcare Fund, for instance, was launched in 2009 to support community care, nursing home care and preventive health-care programmes, among others.

Around $100 million was committed to it in FY 2011, up from $30 million in FY 2009, said the Agency for Integrated Care, which coordinates care services. Both pledges could be spent over three years.

The money has been useful in rolling out services for Singapore's rapidly ageing population.

Funds for the Tote Board have risen sharply since the two casinos opened in 2010, with more than $500 million collected in entry levies alone between 2010 and June last year, the latest period for which figures are available.

But this, the Tote Board said, was not the key reason for the jump in donations.

"Our donation strategy does not entirely depend on the surpluses we collect each year," a spokesman said.

The quality of the projects and the social gaps plugged are considered too.

"The increase in donations pledged mirrors the increasing needs in the community," she said. There were also more worthy projects from organisations working on the ground.

The board was set up in 1988 to channel funds from horse racing to community projects. Singapore Pools came on board in 2004.

The board did not give a year-on-year breakdown of actual donations, stressing that these depend entirely on the number of projects deemed suitable for funding each year.

Thus, only $145 million was committed in 2002, for instance, and $1.2 billion in 2007, largely because of a $400 million donation towards building the Gardens by the Bay.