Address social impact of gambling before expanding casinos

It would be irresponsible to consider expansion of the gambling component of the IRs without first addressing the social impact of gambling in Singapore.
It would be irresponsible to consider expansion of the gambling component of the IRs without first addressing the social impact of gambling in Singapore.PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO

While the Government harbours great plans for extensive expansion of the two integrated resorts (IRs) (IRs to invest $9b in new attractions, April 4), one cannot help but notice that there is a parallel concern about the social impact of gambling (Casinos' social impact under continued scrutiny: Chan, April 4).

If the Government has been closely monitoring the social impact and problems of gambling ever since the casinos started operating here almost 10 years ago, it would have sufficient data by now to show the extent of problem gambling and the extent of damage it has brought to families and individuals - for example, through bankruptcy, suicides, divorces, violence and physical abuse.

Many Singaporeans are aware of the dangers of gambling. Some may have even known individuals and families who have suffered. These problems are real, painful and, at times, devastating.

It would be irresponsible to consider expansion of the gambling component of the IRs without first addressing the social impact of gambling in Singapore.

Informing Singaporeans that problem gambling has not worsened is unconvincing. To merely say that the Government will remain wary and stay alert to the problems and dangers of gambling is not good enough to instil confidence, especially when there were many voices of dissent when the casinos first started.

The Government should address and quantify the extent of damage the various ill effects gambling has had on individuals and families in the last 10 years. Also, it should give an account of the follow-up actions and resources in place to minimise these ill effects.

Surely 10 years is sufficient time for a good retrospective analysis on the social impact and problems related to casinos and gambling.

The fundamental considerations of whether to build and expand casinos go beyond just economic gains and a simplistic approach for managing the dangers of gambling.

Ho Ting Fei (Dr)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 08, 2019, with the headline 'Address social impact of gambling before expanding casinos'. Print Edition | Subscribe