Self-ban scheme does not go far enough

The National Council on Problem Gambling has a self-exclusion scheme.
The National Council on Problem Gambling has a self-exclusion scheme. PHOTO: NCPG

About 1,400 people have applied to voluntarily ban themselves from 24 jackpot venues here, according to the National Council on Problem Gambling (NCPG).

The council has a self-exclusion scheme where individuals can apply to be shut out of jackpot rooms.

But experts have questioned the efficacy of the scheme as clubs have to voluntarily sign up for it. There are about 90 jackpot clubs here, but only 24 operators have opted into the NCPG's self-exclusion list.

In addition, the exclusion is not a blanket ban from all clubs. Individuals must first be a member of a club before they can exclude themselves from that specific club.

In contrast, the self-exclusion orders issued for the two casinos here dwarf that for jackpot venues - 285,000 versus 1,400.

Mr Kelvin Tay, chairman of The Silver Lining, which runs gambling support groups, said any exclusion should include all jackpot clubs.

"If you want to put controls in place, you need to include all the clubs. If not, it doesn't make sense. A gambler can just go to another club," he said.

BLANKET BAN NEEDED

If you want to put controls in place, you need to include all the clubs. If not it doesn't make sense. A gambler can just go to another club.

MR KELVIN TAY, chairman of The Silver Lining, which runs gambling support groups.

Most of the 24 clubs on the self-exclusion scheme - such as the NTUC Club, Safra National Service Association and HomeTeamNS club - are government-affiliated.

Another two gambling operators - Singapore Pools and Singapore Turf Club - also offer the option of having individuals banned from creating online betting accounts.

However, many football clubs are not on the list even though it is easy to apply for membership to access their jackpot machines, said Mr Billy Lee, executive director of Blessed Grace Social Services.

"Those who are banned from going to casinos should also be banned from jackpot clubs. But all these jackpot rooms run by football clubs are not on the list," he said.

Only three football clubs are on the self-exclusion list - Albirex Niigata, Warriors FC and Home United.

When asked, the Football Association of Singapore said it would "endeavour to work closely with NCPG and encourage all our other clubs to support the national effort in due course".

Correction note: In our earlier story, we said the council has a self-exclusion scheme where individuals or their family members can apply to be shut out of online betting outlets and jackpot rooms. This is incorrect. A family member could apply only for a ban from online betting. We are sorry for the error.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 27, 2017, with the headline 'Self-ban scheme does not go far enough'. Print Edition | Subscribe