Reining in problem gambling

Reining in problem gambling

The National Addiction Management Service (Nams) reported a big rise in the number of gamblers seeking help last year ("More people seeking help to break chains of addiction"; Thursday).

Other centres that help problem gamblers have also seen similar increases.

The figures, however, do not help us understand the reason for the increase and offer no solution.

The National Council on Problem Gambling (NCPG) Helpline receives about 60 calls each day ("More calls made to gambling helpline"; May 14). Those who are open to counselling are referred to Nams and the Thye Hua Kwan (THK) Problem Gambling Recovery Centre.

These problem gamblers should continue to be tracked even after referral. The key performance indicators (KPIs) should be based on the number of successfully treated cases rather than on the numbers seen. This would reveal whether the current process of treating problem gamblers is robust, comprehensive and effective.

The NCPG should also refer cases to other agencies helping problem gamblers, and subject them to the same set of KPIs.

This would reduce the workload of Nams and the THK centre, as I understand that the current waiting time for an appointment at Nams is long, sometimes stretching to a few months between each appointment.

More talks on problem gambling and its consequences should be held in learning institutions and army camps. Many of those who come to our centre for help pick up gambling while they are in these institutions.

Talks could include testimonies from former gamblers, emphasising the harm gambling has done to their lives and how they succeeded in beating their addiction.

The NCPG should also review the resources - manpower and materials - available and whether they match the profile of problem gamblers.

Currently, most of the available resources are in English while the majority of problem gamblers are Mandarin-speaking.

With more effective preventive measures, the number of people falling into the gambling trap would hopefully decline in the near future.

Billy Lee Han Tiong

Founder/Executive Director

Blessed Grace Social Services

Gamblers Recovery Centre

This article was first published on December 27, 2014.
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