Families can soon apply to bar loved ones from jackpot rooms and Singapore Pools online betting

Operators of jackpot rooms and Singapore Pools will face disciplinary action if they allow those who are barred to enter or gamble. ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

SINGAPORE - Families can soon apply to bar their loved ones from the 46 jackpot rooms here and betting on the Singapore Pools online account for games such as football and 4-D when the new Gambling Control Bill is passed later this year.

When the Bill becomes law, it will be an offence for a person who is barred by his or her family to enter or gamble in any of the jackpot rooms here or start an online account with Singapore Pools.

Offenders can be fined up to $10,000 or jailed up to one year, or both.

The Gambling Control Bill and the Gambling Regulatory Authority of Singapore Bill were introduced in Parliament on Feb 14 and they seek to address the blurring line between gambling and gaming and how the Internet has made gambling more accessible.

From June 1, all tenants and occupiers on the Public Rental Scheme, which offers highly subsidised Housing Board rental housing for the low-income Singaporeans, will also automatically be barred from the casinos, jackpot rooms and opening a Singapore Pools online betting account.

This is to minimise the ill effects of gambling on them and their families, the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) said.

These rental-flat residents will join those on the Government's social assistance and subsidy schemes, such as ComCare, and undischarged bankrupts, among other groups, who are currently barred.

With the new family exclusion order, those who are barred are banned from all three types of gambling - at casinos, jackpot rooms and Singapore Pools online betting.

There are two casinos here and 46 jackpot rooms as at the end of last year , a Ministry of Home Affairs spokesman told The Straits Times.

The MSF spokesman said that for family exclusion orders, a committee of assessors will decide whether to ban the individual based on factors such as the frequency of gambling, the family's distress and financial situation after getting the family's application.

The MSF spokesman added that the National Council on Problem Gambling (NCPG) can also order those who have been barred by their families to go for counselling or rehabilitation.

Operators of jackpot rooms and Singapore Pools will also face disciplinary action from the Gambling Regulatory Authority, a new body that will regulate all forms of gambling, if they allow those who are barred to enter or gamble, the MSF spokesman said.

However, those who are barred can still place bets at Singapore Pools outlets in person.

"This is because Singapore Pools outlets provide an avenue for individuals who may otherwise turn to illegal lottery and sports betting," said the MSF spokesman.

The MSF said until the new Gambling Control Bill is passed, families can currently apply for a Casino Family Exclusion Order, and Singapore Pools and jackpot rooms will also ban the individual from their products.

Counsellors who work with gambling addicts said it is critical to allow families to apply to bar their loved ones, which they can do even without the person's consent, as the addict is not likely to apply for a self-exclusion order to bar himself.

Mr Billy Lee, executive director of Blessed Grace Social Services, said: "This family exclusion order gives families an avenue to force their loved ones to address their gambling problem."

We Care Community Services executive director Tham Yuen Han said the move to allow families to bar their loved ones from opening or betting on a Singapore Pools online account is needed as gamblers are now gambling more frequently online on both legal and illegal sites and placing larger bets.

Besides losing sums ranging from tens of thousands to a few million dollars on games such as jackpot and football, addicts often borrow money from loan sharks and licensed money lenders. Counsellors say their gambling habit often also tear their families apart.

We Care Community Services has counselled a high-ranking professional in his 50s who lost half a million dollars betting on his Singapore Pools online account.

His gambling addiction worsened during the pandemic as he was also more stressed at work, said Ms Tham.

The man, who owed the banks and licensed money lenders more than $400,000, became suicidal. His family eventually paid off most of his debt, but made him seek help to stop gambling.

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