Gambling sector in Singapore
In 2010, authorities in Singapore gave the green light for the development of the country’s first two casinos. The country has had a national lottery for many years, along with betting on horse races at local tracks. The country is a major hub for international finance and attracts many visitors every year.
The bigger of the two casinos is the Las Vegas Sands Marina Bay Sands. This resort casino has been open since April 2010. It has more than 2,500 slot machines and over 725 table games.
The other casino is Genting’s Resorts World Sentosa. It was the first casino to open, in January 2010. There is a Universal Studios theme park at this venue.
Even with only two casinos, Singapore is fourth in the world in casino revenues, behind only the United States, Macau, and Canada.
The Singapore casinos are often among the top ten in highest annual revenues among the world’s casinos. Most of the customers are locals; Singaporeans are usually in the top two in the rankings of nationalities that spend the most on gambling per capita.
In recent years, the Singapore casinos have struggled somewhat. The Chinese economy appears to be slowing down and fewer high rollers are coming to gamble. This trend is also seen in Macau.
Gambling addiction levels
According to recent reports, there has not been any increase in the incidence of gambling addiction in Singapore since the two casinos opened. This was a fear for many people.
A survey about the extent of problem gambling in Singapore is conducted every three years. The 2017 survey showed a slight rise in the level of problem gambling among local residents, rising from 0.7% of the adult population up to 0.9%. However, statisticians say that this increase is not significant.
Singapore residents need to be 20 years old to gamble at the casinos. There are 3.1 million locals that are 20 older. Therefore, 0.9% of this adult population means that 28,000 people struggle with gambling problems.
The first of these surveys took place in 2005 and the level of problem gambling is now lower than in the 2005 survey. Back then, the addiction rate was around 4.1%, but it dropped to 2.9% in 2008 and 2.6% in 2011.
Despite these improving figures, the Singapore authorities are looking at ways in which they can increase responsible gambling even further.
Six facilities are now available to help problem gamblers, an increase from two. An e-counseling service has also been started.
Potential new responsible gambling measures
The authorities in Singapore are contemplating the introduction of a number of interesting strategies to promote responsible gambling. The Ministry of Family Development is working with the resort casinos to identify potentially useful technology.
One of the strategies they are looking at is technology that allows a player to set a budget at the start of a casino session. The budget can be a limit on the amount of time played or the maximum sum that the gambler can lose.
Reminders are sent when they reach the limit, acting as a deterrent. Gambling addiction counselors believe that monitoring gambling behavior using technology could be very useful, especially for those gamblers that “cannot exercise discipline or control.”
Many gamblers report that they lose all track of time when they are in a casino. This technology could help them to snap out of the zone and refrain from accumulating further time at the tables or machines.
Acting as a deterrent
Pastor Billy Lee deals with a lot of people who have gambling problems through the Blessed Grace Social Services clinic. He says: “You lose track of time because there aren’t any windows in the casinos to tell you the time of day, how long you’ve been there. They can spend a day there without knowing although they initially say they will just spend an hour. You lose track of losses because you don’t use money but chips.”
The government is also increasing the entry sum the locals have to pay to get into the casinos. This is going to S$150 (US$111) from S$100 (US$74). The annual level will rise to S$3,000 (US$2,217) from S$2,000 (US$1,478).
Restrictions will also be put in place on who can purchase these levies. Casino staff will be trained to spot patrons who could be at risk of developing a gambling problem.