By Amelia Tan
A GROUP of students from the Singapore Management University (SMU) is running a campaign to spread the message of responsible gambling among youth.
The campaign, called 'Play It Right', is led by members of the SMU Recreational Gaming Club, which organises regular mahjong and contract bridge classes and tournaments on campus.
Besides SMU students, the group will be recruiting students from the National University of Singapore and the Nanyang Technological University to speak at schools islandwide about the signs to look out for in problem gambling and ways to seek help.
So far, 12,000 undergraduates have heard about these dangers through a series of roadshows held at the three universities last month.
The group will stage other roadshows at the polytechnics and the Institute of Technical Education over the next few months. There are also plans to visit all the junior colleges by the end of next year.
The brains behind the campaign, third-year students Koh Jie Yu and Tee Wei Jie, experienced the effects of being addicted to gambling first-hand.
Both had lost thousands of dollars in online soccer betting and mahjong games in their teenage years. But they stopped about three years ago when they realised how much they had lost, personally and in monetary terms.
Mr Tee, 23, an accountancy student, said: 'I was lucky that I came to a realisation on my own that I was spending too much time on mahjong. But I know what it is like to play mahjong for hours and not wanting to stop because you think if you continue, you will start winning.'
Mr Koh, who is also 23 and majoring in social science and psychology, said: 'When you are so much into the game, you won't realise that you are spending many hours on it and using up all your allowance. I know this, because I was like that too. We want to be able to help students to spot signs of addiction in themselves and others before it's too late.'
They also feel that the issue of problem gambling will rise among youth when the two integrated resorts open.
The campaign is funded by a $10,500 grant from the National Council on Problem Gambling.
Mrs Mildred Tan, chairman of the council's public communications sub-committee, said: 'It is indeed powerful when youths reach out to other youths to raise awareness of problem gambling and the resources available should they, their friends or family members have a problem.'
This article was first published in The Straits Times.