Will stopping growth of IRs keep dangers of gambling at bay?

The Marina Bay Sands in Singapore's civic district that is set to undergo an expansion.
The Marina Bay Sands in Singapore's civic district that is set to undergo an expansion.PHOTO: ST FILE

The history of gambling reveals that it has always existed and, evidently, it thrives today.

Gambling - or becoming addicted to it - is not exclusive to Singapore.

According to The Economist, the legal gambling market totalled $335 billion globally in 2009.

Arguably, it is the addiction to gambling - rather than casinos or other gambling dens - that is the real problem (Address social impact of gambling before expanding casinos, by Dr Ho Ting Fei, April 8).

Science reveals that a gambling addiction is a form of mental disorder - an illness - rather than a heredity or biological constitution that one acquires at birth.

Banning casinos or severely restricting people from gambling would only fuel the growth in gambling tourism and illegal gambling.

Needless to say that, while the Government has the right to stop the growth of integrated resorts (IRs), it can never prevent people from exercising their right to gamble - if not in Singapore, then somewhere else.

Although many Singaporeans are aware of the dangers of gambling, the reality is that there is little or no difference between a gambling addict on a losing streak and one in his death throes - the instinct to survive and win back what has been lost intensifies exponentially with time.

Hence, neuroscience and medical professionals have a responsibility in communicating the facts about a gambling addiction and finding a cure for this illness.

In that case, is it justified to conclude that casinos are the cause of the negative effects of gambling?

Is it also justified to say that the growth of IRs ought to be stopped in order to keep the dangers of gambling at bay?

S. Ratnakumar

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 12, 2019, with the headline 'Will stopping growth of IRs keep dangers of gambling at bay?'. Print Edition | Subscribe