Mark Lee warns of the perils of gambling in video

The National Council on Problem Gambling video features (from left) Mark Lee, Henry Thia and Jack Neo.
The National Council on Problem Gambling video features (from left) Mark Lee, Henry Thia and Jack Neo.PHOTO: NCPG SINGAPORE/ YOUTUBE

Singapore comedian Mark Lee often portrays happy-go-lucky characters on television shows and in movies, with his swaggering, devil-may-care attitude.

In real life, he used to throw caution to the wind too, spending up to $5,000 a week placing gambling bets.

Lee, 51, has since cleaned up his act and wants to warn others of the perils of gambling addiction.

Appearing in an eight-minute-plus video for the National Council on Problem Gambling, he relates the various stages of the addiction and how his life was almost ruined.

In an interview with Chinese daily Shin Min, he revealed that it did not bother him then when he splurged up to $5,000 a week on 4-D and up to $500 on football bets.

Though he could pocket $100,000 from positive betting outcomes, that allure also proved to be a dangerous trap.

"If you win $10,000 today, you think you can win more next time, so you'll place bigger bets."

In the video, Lee recalled how success on the popular Comedy Night variety show - helmed by Jack Neo - in the late 1990s planted a false impression in him that money was easy to come by.

Lee also ventured into business and made profits. "The feeling of winning is exciting," he said of his early gambling days.

"I bought every set of 4-D in 24 permutations," he recalled.

When the gambling habit consumed his thoughts, his business faltered. "I had to let go of my employees one by one until there was no one left."

His plan to turn things around? He would borrow money to bet again to recoup his losses.

He even made a vow that if he managed to pull off a big win, he would stop gambling.

When Neo saw how far Lee had fallen, he berated him, but "I ignored advice from everyone".

One day, Lee's mother said: "Mark, I have two sons. Your brother died young, unfortunately.

"I really thought for the rest of my life, you would look after me, but now, even the only son I have left will be lost."

It was only then that Lee, feeling remorse over how he had let down his mother and girlfriend, decided to change his ways.

With tears in his eyes, Lee said in the video: "What my mum said then was true. I shouldn't lose myself too."

"If I did, I would have lived my life in vain," he added, noting that the greed to make more money is a trap.

"In just two years, I lost everything I had."

Those who need help can call the National Council on Problem Gambling's helpline on 1800-6668-668.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 04, 2019, with the headline 'Mark Lee warns of the perils of gambling in video'. Print Edition | Subscribe