To ask the Minister for Social and Family Development (a) whether he can provide an update on problem gambling in Singapore; (b) what is his assessment on the effectiveness of the social safeguards introduced since the entry of the Integrated Resorts in 2005; and (c) what new safeguards will be considered going forward.
1. Based on the Gambling Participation Survey (GPS) conducted by the National Council on Problem Gambling (NCPG) every three years, the probable problem and pathological gambling rate of Singapore residents in 2017 was 0.9%. In 2011, it was 2.6%.
2. Our casino safeguards are among the most stringent in the world. We take a preventive approach by disallowing the most financially vulnerable people from entering the casinos. For example, undischarged bankrupts, those who are receiving financial aid from the Government such as ComCare Social Assistance or legal aid, and those living in HDB rental flats who have six months or more of rental arrears, are automatically excluded. This means that they are barred from entering the casinos, fruit machine rooms in private clubs and from betting online with Singapore Pools.
3. The NCPG also has powers under the Casino Control Act to limit the number of visits an individual can make to the casino each month. Under the Third Party Visit Limit regime, NCPG can do so when it notices individuals visiting the casino frequently and gambling beyond their means. In addition, if the individual has incurred debt due to gambling, NCPG may even bar the person from entering the casino by issuing a Third Party Exclusion Order, that is, the person cannot enter the casino at all.
4. Many locals have also chosen under the Self-Exclusion Scheme to voluntarily exclude themselves from the casinos or fruit machine rooms in private clubs, or from opening an online account with Singapore Pools.
5. The existing social safeguards are targeted at problem gamblers and the financially vulnerable, and problem gambling has been minimised, affecting only about 1% of the resident population. Having said that, every family that suffers harm because of problem gambling, is one case too many.
6. Therefore, we will continue our efforts to address problem gambling by putting in place more upstream and preventive measures. For online gambling offered by Singapore Pools, we have already taken steps by requiring punters to set limits on their expenditure, and we will review how to improve this. For casino gambling, with effect 4 April 2019, the casino entry levies for Singaporeans and PRs have been raised by 50%, from $100 to $150 for the daily levy, and from $2,000 to $3,000 for the annual levy.
7. We will be working with the Integrated Resorts (IRs) to implement technology measures to provide patrons with information to allow them to make informed decisions on their bets and better control their gambling expenditure. We will also work with the IRs to strengthen training for casino gaming staff to identify persons at-risk of gambling problem and offer help to such patrons.