'Safe' managed space for gambling still addictive, risky

Crowd at Singapore Pools outlet, just before closing time, at Block 726 Ang Mo Kio Avenue 6, for the $10 million Hong Bao Draw. PHOTO: ST FILE

Granting Singapore Pools and Singapore Turf Club exemption from the Remote Gambling Act may be likened to managing heroin addiction using methadone ("Online betting to be introduced in next 2 months"; Sept 30).

Unless it is managed very carefully, methadone, itself an opiate like heroin, can cause serious addiction, complications and death. Clearly, it is best to stem heroin trafficking in the first place.

There has been talk promoting the idea of a safe "managed space" for online gambling, but its success is in doubt. This is particularly so since the two operators are restricted to their current products.

Avid gamblers are likely to go elsewhere to seek out novel and more exciting thrills.

Who will reap direct benefits from this latest move? Certainly not the gambler, his family or society in general.

Legitimising online gambling will reduce any psychological and societal barrier to gambling that currently exists, especially for those who have only been toying with the idea.

Newbie gamblers will find it easier to get hooked, and may tire of these "safe" offerings and take the leap to more risky sites.

Furthermore, youngsters who see their parents gambling online at home will become desensitised to the evils of gambling.

Lastly, as the products offered by Singapore Pools and Singapore Turf Club begin to look dated, compared to offerings elsewhere, the efficacy of this "managed space" will surely drop.

Will the operators then seek further exemptions to allow them to roll out new products?

Instead of granting exemptions so soon after the Remote Gambling Act came into force in February last year and making it easier to engage in this vice, aggressive and sustained efforts should be spent on clamping down on gambling sites, and steeply raising penalties when necessary.

Daniel Ng Peng Keat (Dr)

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