Mr Christopher Chuah, President of One Hope Centre,
Board, management, staff and volunteers of One Hope Centre,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
A very good evening to all. Thank you for inviting me to this 10th anniversary celebration of One Hope Centre. I would like to congratulate One Hope Centre for reaching this significant milestone.
Many of us here are concerned about problem gambling and how it affects individuals, families and society. In 2011, the National Council on Problem Gambling conducted a Gambling Prevalence Survey. It found that the probable pathological and problem gambling rates among Singapore residents were 1.4% and 1.2% respectively.
From international research, we also know that up to 8 to 9 other people can be adversely affected by a problem gambler. These could be family members, friends or colleagues who suffer from financial, emotional, psychological or even physical hurt. Clearly, problem gambling is an issue that warrants our attention.
We can institute regulations and controls over gambling activities. But it is neither practical nor realistic to expect problem gambling to disappear altogether. Especially in a more connected physical world and online universe where one can gamble anytime and anywhere. An encompassing approach is thus needed necessary to tackle problem gambling - one that combines the efforts of personal responsibility, family support, community involvement and government intervention.
An Encompassing Approach
For each problem and pathological gambler, the long term solution has to be treatment and rehabilitation. For this to happen, the individual must first take personal responsibility. To acknowledge the problem where it exists, and to seek professional help for his or her addiction.
The family plays a crucial role - in prevention and in a gambler’s recovery from gambling addiction. Many problem gamblers start gambling at a young age. It is important that families do not condone gambling as a social norm or regard excessive gambling as acceptable. Studies have also found that counselling and therapy for problem gamblers works best if there is family support. If family members encourage problem gamblers to confront their affliction, accompany them to help sessions, and walk alongside them in the recovery process, there is much better chance for a problem gambler to kick the addiction.
Problem gamblers and family members seeking to address problem gambling will need help. This includes access to relevant information, help resources and community support. Community groups and voluntary welfare organisations like One Hope Centre are often their first and most natural touch points. You are sometimes also the most effective intervention channels for problem gamblers or their family members.
The government too has several important roles to play. I have mentioned the task of setting appropriate gambling regulations and social safeguards. It also plays an important role in public education. And in supporting the roles of the individual, family and community.
I am heartened to know there are more community groups and voluntary welfare organisations today making effort to address problem gambling. One Hope is a good example. Since 2005, it has impacted the lives of many problem gamblers and their families through counselling services and support group therapy. Christopher told me that it even goes to the extent of helping some of them to restructure their debts, and gain better control over their finances and lives. In 2013 alone, it helped 345 individuals through one-to-one counselling and 543 through support group sessions. This is quite remarkable, given One Hope’s limited resources.
With it now being conferred the status of an Institution of Public Character, One Hope is in a good position to reach out to an even wider pool of funders, donors and volunteers for support. I also understand that the National Council on Problem Gambling is in discussions with One Hope Centre on collaborations on outreach and public education programmes for youth. These are encouraging developments that give me confidence that the Centre will multiply its impact in the coming years.
I would like to thank One Hope’s leadership and staff for your stellar work. A special word of appreciation too to its donors and volunteers for the steadfast support over the past decade.
Congratulations again for reaching this significant milestone. And the very best for the future. Thank you.