MPs: Put casino issue to the vote
Source: The Straits Times 2 March 2005
One wants a vote in Parliament; another, a referendum
Still, two Members of the House want the controversial issue to be put to the vote.
Speech by Mr Alvin Yeo in Parliament
“A couple of recent examples illustrate the point. One that has sparked some controversy is the case of the integrated resorts (or IRs). The controversy stems from the casino component of the IRs which some Singaporeans feel, not without basis, would bring social ills linked to gambling to our shores. My purpose is not to debate the evils of gambling but to point out that the tender allowed for a very small percentage, in the single digit, of the gross floor area of integrated resorts to be allocated for casino. The various tenderers were not being forced to run a casino – if they did not want one – they were being permitted to have one if they did, and all the bidders’ proposed IRs have included a casino in their tender contract. Why is that so? That must be because the market believes that it enhances the feasibility of this multi-billion dollar project.The decision to allow a casino component in the IR concept was reached after extensive public consultation and often heated debate. But what is often obscure, amidst the heat and dust, is that the move was driven by market forces rather than a desire to allow Singaporeans to gamble their savings away. Put it another way, the decision was really to go with what the market was looking for and then try to contain and counter the social fallout through controls and counselling and other measures. And if we had any choice but to go with what market forces were demanding, did Singapore, without the natural attractions of the Three Gorges or Mount Fuji, without the historical sites of an Angkor Wat or Borobudor, really have a choice? I would say not, if they wanted to create sufficient buzz about this island to grow the volume of visitor arrivals that form a significant segment of our economy.”
The presence of the Integrated Resorts (IRs) here has not caused a spike in the number of gambling addicts, said Casino Regulatory Authority (CRA) chairman Richard Magnus yesterday, citing a study done by the Institute of Mental Health.
Speaking at a question and answer session at the 23rd Singapore Law Review Annual Lecture, Mr Magnus said that the study concluded that gambling addiction numbers before and after the establishment of the IRs remained the same.
What the IRs did, though, was provide “just another avenue for gambling”, said Mr Magnus.
He added: “The thinking is that some of these gamblers moved away from the traditional gambling areas and move into casinos.” Read more.
Writing on her Facebook page yesterday, Ms Fu said: “While I acknowledge the contribution of IRs to our economy, I am concern(ed) about the social effects.”
Ms Fu also expressed her concern over the rising number of advertisements by moneylenders offering “quick loan/fast cash”, in Chinese dailies Shin Min and Wanbao as well as The New Paper.
THURSDAY’S articles paint a picture of increasing numbers of people falling prey to their gambling addictions and requiring assistance (‘More gamblers seek help for addiction’, ‘Frequent and heavy gambling also a concern’, ‘Finding hope to beat gambling monster’ and ‘Kicking the habit for good’).
Credit Counselling Singapore statistics show that the proportion of people seeking counselling and attributing gambling as a main cause for being in debt climbed from 22 per cent last year to 29 per cent in the first half of this year.
Gambling problems have increased since the opening of the two casinos last year.
Apart from large gambling debts, a distressing and frequent characteristic is the speed at which such debts are incurred, often over the space of just a few months. We feel that this has been facilitated by easy access to the casinos.
Based on the anecdotal accounts of people resorting to crime as well as the increased number of people being assisted, it appears that Singaporeans could form a significant proportion of visitors to the two casinos.
These casinos have, within a short period, placed Singapore in second spot in terms of gambling turnover, surpassing even Las Vegas.
Such a turn must be viewed with concern if Singaporeans are being adversely affected.
The regulatory authorities should explain whether the original projected turnover from Singaporeans has been under-estimated, and what proportion of gambling turnover is contributed by Singaporeans.
By now, the authorities should know the pattern and frequency of Singaporean gamblers to the two casinos.
The daily entrance fee of $100 may no longer be a deterrent to Singaporeans who want to gamble, and is ineffective in stopping addicts.
We must have more effective curbs in addition to the casino exclusion ban.
We should consider imposing a limit based on the frequency of visits over a specified period.
Singaporeans could, for example, be allowed a fixed number of visits per quarter.
This should deter impulse gambling and be a more effective curb than the present pay-and-play, on-demand system, which is just raising revenue at the moment.
Kuo How Nam
Credit Counselling Singapore
Exerpt from The Straits Times 12 Nov 2011
In September, (Kuo How Nam, President of CCS) has written yet another letter to The Straits Times, this time calling for a citizen’s visits to the casinos to be limited
“we are seeing more people coming to us and attributing their debt problems to gambling’ said Mr Kuo, who said this number climbed from 22 per cent last year to 29 per cent in the first half of this year. He believes this figure does not reveal the true extent of the gambling problem.
This is why he hopes to see more measures introduced to discourage frequent visits to the casinos. Repeatedly calling gambling “a big problem”, he said that while people had to take a coach to Genting to visit a casino in the past, “now if they have a lunchtime itch to gamble, they can scratch it straightaway”.
“This will lead to more impulse gambling and the $100 daily entrance fee may no longer be a deterrent,” he said. While he had called for the Government to allow Singaporeans only a fixed number of visits per quarter in his letter, he now also suggests tweaking entrance tees upwards, according to the frequency of one’s visit.
On average, CCS counsels between 25 and 30 people a week, with three out of four of those who seek help being men. A majority » 66 per cent — of these debtors, or clients as Mr Kuo prefers to call them, are married with children, earning an average of $2,700 per month.
What is most startling however, is this next nugget of information he provides: ”They usually owe $70,000 to seven creditors, an amount that will take more than, five years to repay, if they pay $1,100 a month/’ While the number of CCS “clients” spiked in 2008 during the economic slowdown, he said it has been stable in the last two years.
Updated 6 Feb 2014: Total gambling losses incurred by Singapore, which include losses by tourists and other visitors here, amounted to S$9.9 billion. The average adult resident in the Republic lost €680 (S$1,189) last year, down from €822 (worth S$1,451 at the time) in 2010, according to H2 Gambling Capital.When tourists and visitors’ gambling losses are taken into account, the losses incurred per adult here is S$1,964. (Source: Todayonline: “S’poreans remain second-biggest gamblers in the world”)
SINGAPORE — She was not the only Member of Parliament (MP) who argued yesterday for a total ban on remote gambling, but Moulmein-Kallang GRC MP Denise Phua also went a step further to again urge a rethink of casino operations here.
Almost 10 years after the Government decided to allow casinos in Singapore, Ms Phua questioned whether it was time to review its position. “When will Singapore wean itself off the casino industry, reduce the casinos from two to one to nil, especially in light of new potential entrants such as Japan and other Asian countries?
“With the tightening of foreign labour in Singapore, have the casinos now become competitors for manpower from our local small and medium enterprises? … What is our progress in learning skills such as operating the meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions (sector) and family entertainment industries, which the integrated resorts have exposed us to?”
While relieved that Singapore has “exercised strong self-restraint” in the brick-and-mortar casino business, it is time for the Government to take a holistic approach to discourage gambling as an economic or social activity,said Ms Phua. “It is not enough to make silo, piecemeal introductions of legislation and policies”, though they may be well-intentioned.
While the long-term place of gambling in Singapore is being reviewed, Ms Phua proposed for more to be done to discourage this activity among Singaporeans — such as by increasing the casino levy and creating an opt-in system, so only those who wish to gamble sign up.
Separately, responding to questions for written answers tabled by Marine Parade GRC MP Seah Kian Peng, Deputy Prime Minister and Home Affairs Minister Teo Chee Hean said about 8 per cent of casino day-entry levies had been paid by Singaporean patrons to extend their stay in the two casinos here. Of these, more than half did so on two occasions or fewer during the year. He added that there are currently no plans to place restrictions on consecutive day-entry levies.
Mr Teo also noted that the day-entry levy is valid for multiple visits within a 24-hour period. “We do not have readily available data on the number who stayed beyond 24 hours in a continuous stretch.”
More related links:
- Grace Fu voices concern over effects of casinos
- Singapore ahead in the losing game?
- Govt to make it crystal clear casinos cannot target domestic market
- Singapore’s casinos ‘expected to make close to S$9 billion next year’
- First junket operators for casino
- Government to tighten casino regime
- Govt ‘anxiously’ watching effects of IRs-“Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong says the Government is “still watching anxiously” the social effects of Singapore’s two integrated resorts, even as they have been successful in terms of business, urban planning and government revenue. ” About a quarter of visitors to Singapore’s two integrated resorts are locals.