Counsellors Go Back
The Caritas Addicted Gamblers Counseling Centre has recently welcomed a group of governmental officials from Singapore. They came to observe to gain a better understanding of the operation in gambling counseling service models and the characteristics of Hong Kong gamblers, in hopes of establishing effective preventing measures and providing suitable treatments for the problem gamblers in Singapore. Since October 2003, the centre started exchanging experiences and expertise in gambling counseling with related government mid-level to top officials and non-governmental organizations from Singapore. Their humble attitude and dedication in adopting preventive policies and measures to prevent their citizens from problem gambling are highly admirable.
On April 18th 2005, the Singaporean government announced the construction of two casino resorts, including the opening of the World Sentosa Resorts in February 14th 2010, and the Marina Bay Sands in April 2010. During the five year long construction period, the Singaporean government has been investigating ways to implement policies and measures in preventing gambling addiction amongst its citizens, targeting gamblers, casinos, citizens, and the government.
- Gamblers: According to a report in 2008, 0.7% - 1.6% of the Singaporean population are pathological gamblers. To prevent the situation from worsening, the government seriously executed three types of casino exclusion measures including self-, family- and third-party exclusion. The first type is where the gambler voluntarily registers for his or her ban upon entries to casinos. The second type is the gambler's direct family members initiate the ban upon the entrance of the gambler into casinos. The third type are third parties who are bankrupted, recipients of government welfare, previous offenders engaging in drug trafficking, loan sharking and money-launching activities. Presently, 28,661 people have been identified and banned under the third type so far.
Casinos: The strict implementation of "Responsible Gambling" measures include the three types of casino exclusions, training casino staffs in identifying addictive gamblers, banning ATMs inside casino venues, providing tests to identify addictive gamblers, accepting a maximum amount of loss set by the gambler, providing information of gambling counseling service organizations, forbidding anyone under 21 from entering the casinos, and conducting background checks on staffs working in casinos.
Citizens: All national citizens or permanent residents of Singapore must pay an entrance fee of 100 Singapore dollars upon each entry to casinos; or an annual fee of 2000 Singapore dollars. Casino loan service can only be served to those nationals who pay a deposits of 100,000 Singapore dollars. All the bets are placed in cash. Any persons receiving government welfare or are bankrupted are not permitted to enter casinos. Research and education on gambling issues and its consequences are promoted through NGOs and government websites.
Government: The establishment of the National Council on Problem Gambling in 2005. It implemented a five year long "Community Addiction Management Programme" in 2002 to 2007, which later became the "National Addiction Management Service" in 2008, which includes the provision of residential and non-residential rehabilitation services. Further, the government has also assigned the NGOs in providing gambling counseling services.
Although the Singaporean government has only had four years of experience in gambling counseling services, its preventive measures are the top in Asia. While, Hong Kong's gambling policies though restrict to some regulated gambling activities but do not include measures such as "Exclusions", training staff to identify problem gamblers, raising the age limit of entry to 21 years old, and entrance fees to gambling venues. Hence, many Hong Kong citizens continue to indulge themselves in problem gambling, resulting in dire consequences. 418 problem gamblers who received our counseling service are unemployed and are recipients of Comprehensive Social Security Scheme (CSSA), occupied 14.5% of the people receiving our counseling services. The money spent in their gambling are usually taken from their low living costs or the CSSA. Such gambling activities can be temporarily stopped if "Exclusions" were imposed in Hong Kong.
The Singaporean government currently implements anti-gambling addiction and treatment measures on a national level, though the amounts of resources invested are large, it effectively prevented gamblers from continuous gambling through casinos, thus reducing its social cost. The Hong Kong government receives tens of billions of betting duty every year, but she only relys on the Jockey Club's 15 million HKD per year in carrying out gambling education, research and counseling services. Hence, let the readers judge on her sincerity and effectiveness. Finally I salute Singapore's anti-gambling addiction policies again.
(Translated by Ms. Helen Leung)