The state of problem gambling, together with more serious pathological gaming, can be viewed as half empty or half full. On a positive note, the combined rates "have remained stable", according to the latest survey by the National Council on Problem Gambling. The proportion of addicted gamblers rose only slightly from 0.7 per cent in 2014 to 0.9 per cent last year. To put this in perspective, the addiction rate was 4.1 per cent in 2005; and it has been sliding since then - well before the two casinos were established here in 2010. Across the globe, up to 5 per cent of adults are hardcore gamblers in need of help, the prevalence varying with the screening methods employed.
The negative side of this trend is that almost one out of every 100 Singapore residents aged 18 and above is still addicted to gambling. When one includes family members living in the shadow of such compulsive behaviour, tens of thousands are deeply affected when gambling leads to debts, importunate demands from moneylenders, and shattered relationships. Research on pathological gamblers elsewhere shows that their children suffer too as a result of smoking, substance abuse and disruptions to family and school life.