Help offered to families of problem gamblers

PHOTO: Help offered to families of problem gamblers

SINGAPORE - While families can be victims of problem gambling, they can also be a part of the solution, said Acting Minister for Community Development, Youth and Sports Chan Chun Sing.

Speaking at the third Singapore Problem Gambling Conference, Mr Chan said that a study commissioned in 2010 found that family members of gamblers often suffer negative impact financially and emotionally.

However, while families often suffer from the effects of an addict's excessive habits, they are best placed to help them as they often know best whether their loved ones have a gambling problem and may need help, he added.

For example, studies have found that counselling and therapy work best if family members accompany the gambler to the sessions.

In order to help, an affected family will need relevant information, knowledge and resources, he said.

To do so, NCPG has collaborated with various bodies to develop a comprehensive programme for the treatment of gambling addiction and provide initial and intermediate counselling and help services.

Together with the National Addictions Management Service (NAMS) and Thye Hua Kwan Moral Society, NCPG has also rolled out a 24-hour helpline for those seeking help.

In addition, a study has found that one of the main concerns faced by families affected by problem gambling include legal issues and financial security.

"Families of problem gamblers usually owe money to the banks or licensed money lenders. Many of them find it difficult to understand the contractual terms relating to their loans. They fear the loss of their homes, their cars and the possibility of facing bankruptcy with adverse consequences on their family ties," he said.

To address this, NCPG has started a one-year pilot on Legal and Financial Advisory Services at three FSCs: Tanjong Pagar FSC, Ang Mo Kio FSC and Hougang Sheng Hong FSC.

Mr Chan also spoke on the various social safeguards in place today, such as the casino exclusion system which has to date issued some 1,250 family exclusion orders.

Other new measures include empowering the Council to issue exclusion orders in the absence of the problem gambler, and to issue provisional exclusion orders to protect the family in the interim between the application and hearing of cases by NCPG.

Another proposed amendment under the Act is the introduction of a casino visit limit system.

These proposals will be effected after the amendments are made to the Casino Control Act in Parliament next month.

He urged gamblers to take personal responsibility for their actions and have the courage to seek help when needed.

He advised problems gamblers to first acknowledge the problem, take immediate steps to apply for casino self-exclusion or apply for self exclusion, and seek professional help.

According to the 2011 Gambling Prevalence Survey, probable pathological and problem gambling rates among Singapore residents have remained low and stable at 1.4 per cent and 1.2 per cent respectively.

The survey also highlighted emerging concerns including heavier gambling among a small group of low-income gamblers, frequent gamblers, as well as poorer self-control among online, horse racing and casino gamblers.