The number Singaporeans who gamble was up last year by 8% compared to 2014, according to a survey by the National Council on Problem Gambling (NCPG).
Conducted every three years with the participation of 3,000 individuals, the survey examines the gambling habits of Singapore residents with the focus on problem gambling. This is the fifth time the survey has been conducted; the previous four having taken place in 2005, 2008, 2011, and 2014.
Relatively stable rates
In 2017, the survey found that 52% of residents in Singapore aged 18 and above had taken part in at least one form of gambling in the last 12 months. This was up 8% percent from the 44% recorded in 2014, reports ChannelNewsAsia. Average betting amounts have also increased from $20 (£14) in 2014 to $30 (£21) last year.
At 52%, Singapore’s gambling rate is significantly lower than Hong Kong’s at 61.5% but slightly higher than the UK’s at 48%.
However, the figure recorded last year is still below the figures for 2005 and 2008, which were 58% and 54%, respectively. This has prompted the NCPG to declare the rate as “relatively stable over the last 12 years”.
The fact that Singapore gambling has remained stable since the first survey was conducted is notable given that the country introduced its first two integrated resort casinos in 2010. It also launched regulated online gambling at the Singapore Pools and Singapore Turf sports.
The NCPG survey also looked at pathological and problem gambler rates, explaining that pathological gambling represents a far greater gambling addiction than problem gambling.
The survey found that 0.1% of the 3,000 participants could be classified as probable pathological gamblers. However, this figure was lower than the 0.2% recorded in 2014. According to Today Online, average wagers tripled from $80 (£57) in 2014 to $250 (£178) per month last year.
Together with problem gamblers, it’s reported that they make up 0.9% of the participants, which is higher than the 0.7% of the 2014 survey.
While the NCPG said that it was unable to explain the increase in the betting amounts, it highlighted that the money that gamblers with serious problems were putting down was a cause for concern.
“[The probable pathological gamblers] have poor self-control… We should be concerned that [they] are gambling more because compared to the normal gambler, they are more likely to regret spending more money than [they planned to],” the Council said.
According to Thomas Lee, an addiction management expert from The Resilienz Clinic, gambling becomes an excessive problem when gamblers bet on more than they can afford to. Such extremes could mean betting an entire month’s salary or even asking for an advance in order to finance their gambling habits.
In the last two years, the NCPG has increased the number of physical help centers in Singapore from two to six. This includes a new phone and Internet-based counseling service that was introduced last July. Despite this, though, the number of calls and webchats to the National Problem Gambling Helpline fell to a five-year low of 19,628 compared to a high of nearly 24,000 in 2014.
When it comes to rates of problem gambling and pathological gambling, Singapore rates are lower than Hong Kong’s 1.7% and Macau’s 2.5% but higher than the UK’s 0.7%.
World Cup 2018
Notably, with the 2018 World Cup taking place in Russia this June, the NCPG is ramping up awareness efforts to ensure that gamblers know where they can turn to if the urge to bet on a game becomes too much.
According to Tan Kian Hoon, NCPG chairman, the organization will also continue to improve accessibility to help services for those who need somewhere to turn to.