An Added Perspective towards Casino Gambling in Singapore
by Desmond Lam

An Added Perspective towards Casino Gambling in Singapore The decision by the Singapore government to set up two integrated resorts with casinos has stirred up some healthy debate among its citizens. Within this ‘lion’ city, voices were heard from ordinary Singaporeans on the negative and positive impacts of such a decision. Many people have, however, failed to realize that many Singaporeans have prior experience in gambling in one form or another. Singaporeans are much more mature and educated toward gambling than what outsiders may think. Recent survey by Singapore’s Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports (MCYS)^ has found that 58% of Singaporeans aged 18 years and above engaged in some form of gambling activities in the past year. Only about 2.1% of these people are probable pathological gamblers and 2% are probable problem gamblers. Many Singaporeans love to visit Genting Highlands in Malaysia. It is an entertainment get-away from the hectic lives in the busy city. Every day, people can be found waiting outside the Golden Mile Shopping Centre for coaches that will ferry them to Genting. A number of agencies provided the services with buses leaving from 7am or 10pm every day and arrive 6-7 hours later in Genting for good fun. Many adults travel to the highland resort to gamble at its casino and, at the same time, enjoy a fun time with their families amidst the cooler weather up the mountain. Thousands would go on Star Cruises each year, longing for its delicious and free-flow food, entertainment facilities, and/or trying out their luck on the limited number of slots and gaming tables. Many more would make time (even during office lunch hours) queuing to buy 4-D or Toto lottery tickets. 4-D are drawn on Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday. Toto is offered on Mon and Thurs with prize earning as high as half a million U.S. dollars. Singapore Sweep is also offered by Singapore Pools, which manages all lottery and football betting (Score and Strike!) games in Singapore. In the Singapore Turf Club, which is more than 150 years old, horse race betting is legalized. Local horse racing occurs in selected Friday, Saturday and Sunday, while Malaysia racing is conducted only over the weekend. Both the Singapore Pools and Singapore Turf Club are owned by Singapore Totalisator Board, a statutory board under the government’s Ministry of Finance. At the Pasir Ris NTUC chalet, SAFRA clubs and other private clubs, old slot machines can be found to provide some gaming entertainment to the public. While 4-D is the most popular form of gambling in Singapore, many gamble privately and socially with friends and families. The most popular form of private games is mahjong. If you live in a public flat by Housing Development Board, you can often hear the sound of mahjong tiles made by your neighbors playing their favorite mahjong game. Gambling also occur in traditional Chinese clan associations among friends and also among extended families with the same family name. These are normally patronized by elderly Singaporeans. Singapore society is a predominantly Chinese, yet multi-cultural and living in harmony with other races. Chinese’s perceptions of problem gambling are not one of human sickness but one of human weakness. A problem gambler is socially undesirable and a bad moral example. He or she is someone who asked for it. It is not a sickness. The person has control but chooses to lose it. Chinese Singaporeans share many cultural similarities with Chinese in Northeast Asia including Macau. Many Singaporeans watch Hong Kong television drama series and Hong Kong-made movies. Singapore media often broadcast Chinese television programs obtained from Hong Kong, Taiwan, China and Korea. Chinese Singaporeans’ core characteristics bear many similarities to Chinese in Northeast Asia. These similarities include beliefs in certain Chinese superstitions, rituals, and feng shui. Gambling is not new to the average Singaporean. Singaporeans have shown their willingness and capacity to gamble as well as to take risks. Hence, it comes with no surprise that the Singapore government, its citizens and some private associations are so wary of the social impacts of having casinos in the country. This is an educated society where its population has, in the past, demonstrated its willingness to take uncertain risks to gain monetary rewards. Having said that, it also means that Singapore has prior experience of managing gambling activities and dealing with social problem that gambling brings. Companies currently going through and eventually selected through the bidding process should understand the various perspectives that the Singapore government and public are coming from if they want to maintain a sustainable business in the garden city. ^ Survey report by Ministry Of Community Development, Youth and Sports (2005) can be found at http://www.ncpg.org.sg/research.html. Biography * Desmond Lam is an Assistant Professor of Marketing at the University of Macau.

Date Posted: 14-May-2006

Desmond Lam is an Assistant Professor of Marketing at the University of Macau.

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