Take stand against online gambling

Take stand against online gambling

SINAGPORE- When evaluating Singapore Pools' proposal to launch its gambling website, the Government should carefully consider the social implications ("Singapore Pools looking to start licensed gambling website"; last Friday).

Years ago, I was initially against the setting up of the two casinos, but was won over by the Government's argument that the integrated resorts would boost our status as a tourist destination and create value-added jobs for Singaporeans.

But there are no such compelling economic arguments for online gambling.

Singapore is not so cash-strapped that it has to resort to this means to boost its coffers.

With the prevalence of smartphones and easy accessibility of online gambling, punters can gamble at any time and anywhere. And Internet-savvy young people could be the ones most at risk.

The National Council on Problem Gambling has done its job well. According to its 2011 survey, the proportion of "probable problem gamblers" and "problem pathological gamblers" has been low and stable ("Low-income gamblers are a worry"; Feb 24, 2012).

But there is a pool of people who are on the verge of becoming compulsive gamblers. They are usually low-income earners and have poorer self-control. They would normally not come to our attention, but the impact of gambling on their families is significant.

When extramarital dating website Ashley Madison signalled its intention to launch its portal here, Singaporeans came out strongly against it ("Dating site for cheating spouses 'not welcome'"; Oct 26).

I hope Singaporeans will take a similar stand against online gambling.

I am not convinced by the argument that a total ban on online gambling would force punters to go underground. Are we to discontinue the ban on drugs using the same rationale?

Gambling should be seen in the same light as drug-taking and alcoholism. In fact, the problem is even more serious as the habit is not as visible but does just as much damage to families.

Edmund Lam (Dr)

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