It is 7.30am - a time when you'd expect housewives to be at the market and retirees at the neighbourhood kopitiam.
But there's a flurry of activity at the Singapore Cruise Centre, located at the Tanah Merah Ferry Terminal. Groups of aunties, uncles, Ah Mas and Ah Gongs start to arrive.
Most of them alight from SBS Service 35, which would have picked them up from either the Bedok or Tanah Merah MRT stations.
There are the occasional younger folk - mainly in their mid-30s - most of whom drive there.
They make their way to a counter to pay between $23 (for those aged above 55) and $43. This gets them a cruise ticket, a transit pass and a ferry boarding card.
Soon, it is time to board the ferry.
The senior citizens shuffle their feet as quickly as they can to make the queue, and some are surprisingly agile, despite being in their 70s.
By 8am, as the first ferry of the day sails away from Singapore, there is an air of anticipation among the passengers. The majority of them are seated alone or, at most, in pairs.
There will be another seven departures, like every other day in the week, with the last ferry at 8.30pm.
There are about 200 passengers on board, with more women than men.
The women are dressed casually in floral tops and matching slacks, or capri pants, complete with the permed hair typical of so many heartland aunties.
Almost everyone travels light, carrying just a purse tucked under the armpit or a slingbag across the body.
Except for the occasional nods of recognition and smiles at one another, most passengers prefer to catch some shut-eye.
The 30-minute ride takes us to Batam's Nongsapura Jetty, where we hand over the transit pass to board a domestic ferry.
The scene shifts slightly here and the aunties start to chat with one another.
Some passengers exchange notes on their mahjong game wins and losses, and a woman speaks of how she missed the top prize in 4-D by just one digit.
At a corner, one auntie is telling another that her husband and her son are "forever quarrelling and that is bad luck for the home".
Twenty minutes later, you are able to spot the regulars - they are the ones who make their way to the exit even before the announcement.
And here's where the real excitement starts as the doors open to MV Leisure World, which is anchored off Indonesian waters.
The New Paper on Sunday understands that it is the only casino ship left now.
Another one, the MV Long Jie, figuratively ran aground in 2011, a year after the integrated resorts (IRs) - Resorts World Sentosa and Marina Bay Sands - opened.
As soon as passports are surrendered at the embarkation counter for safeguarding (according the operator's official website), people disappear in all directions.
Those who have the chips and their membership cards make their way to the two gaming halls located on Decks 6 and 7.
Others stop by the reception counter on Deck 5 where they get table game or slot game rebates of $35 in cash for every $500 chips purchased.
The senior citizens are quite limber, climbing flights of stairs up two to three decks easily.
One woman stretches her right leg up in a yoga-like move and says as she watches us walk into a lift: "Eat more chicken feet to give your legs strength."
The "down" buttons on the elevator don't work. You have to press the "up" ones. For the uninitiated, it's because you'd want your luck to go "up, up and up" and not down, explains a superstitious punter.
We make our way to the Lido Casino on Deck 7 where the main roulette table is packed.
It's the most coveted spot even though there are other table games that include baccarat, blackjack or big-small.
Most punters remain glued to their seats for hours, waging their bets and hoping that Lady Luck will favour them.
Bets at the tables start at $2 and two cents on the jackpot machines.
It's easy on the pocket, says one woman who goes once a week, each time with $1,000.
While you can make Nets withdrawals at the casinos, many prefer to bring enough cash because there is a three per cent commission charge.
There are five buffet meals offered at the Starlight Restaurant on Deck 6 through the day, starting from breakfast, but not everyone leaves their spot.
"There is no time to waste on eating," says a woman in Mandarin, who is in her late 60s.
She offers a tip: "Get up only if you are on a losing streak. Otherwise, guard your seat jealously because there are others who are eyeing it."
When some punters do decide to eat, no time is wasted on idle chat at the dining table. They fill their tummies and quickly return to gambling.
Some prefer to order instant noodles and beverages from the runners, and eat at the tables.
Conversations focus mainly on the day's game and how much money one has won or lost.
It's easier to chat with the women who are hedging their bets at the jackpot machines.
Says one auntie in her late 50s: "Play only the games you are familiar with... it's not just all about luck. Sometimes, you need to be able to work out the odds."
But don't expect to get names even as they tell you their ages and details of their family members.
Not that it is illegal getting on board but almost all who spoke to us admit that their children and sometimes, spouses, don't know what they do.
A woman punter, 70, confesses that her two sons who live with her, think she is at a mahjong game.
She goes on MV Leisure World three times a week and admits there have been hits and misses.
"On good days, I can make up to $1,000, but there are times when I can lose up to $800 - the maximum I bring with me - on a day," she says.
"When I lose everything, I take the ferry home, even if it's earlier than the 5pm one."
There are six departures each day, with the first at 6.15am and the last, 8.30pm.
On Deck 6, which is called the Main Casino, a 76-year-old woman tells us that she comes once a month or two.
She advises in Mandarin: "Cannot come too often. And I tell you, young people like you should avoid coming totally. You'd lose more than you can win."
She laughs as we point out how her words contradict her regular visits. She says: "Well, I am already old, so it's okay. We old people like to play even though we know we can't really win."
Her husband, who knows where she is, sends her off at the bus stop near their HDB home in Geylang Bahru before he heads off for his morning exercise.
It's a secret they keep from their only son, who is married but does not have any children.
This day, she has lost $600 at roulette and is playing on her last $77 at the two-cent jackpot machine.
Her husband, she says, does not come because "I don't allow it".
"I have read reports of how gambling has ruined families and caused so much pain. Which is why you young people really shouldn't get hooked on gambling," she says.
She loses the $77 in 10 minutes.
She shakes her head: "Well, I am going home." A much younger punter, dressed in a pink polo Tshirt and capri pants, says it's her day off and she is here to try her luck at the baccarat table.
She used to go to the IRs when her friend was a member, she says.
"She paid the annual levy and would pay for me to accompany her, but since she didn't renew it, I stopped going there."
The woman, who is in her 40s, says she has gone to MV Leisure World for many years.
"My husband does not like me to gamble but he knows that I am here," she says.
She came on the 10am ferry and will take the 5pm one to return home, just in time to cook dinner.
One woman, 77, who works as a part-time tea auntie in an office in the mornings, takes the 11am ferry ride to MV Leisure World, after she has finished work.
Her grandchildren, she says, are grown up and she lives by herself.
"My children have asked me to move in with them but I don't want to. They live in Sengkang and it's too far away for me to get to the ferry terminal."
She stops halfway through her jackpot bets and tells a casino employee: "No good lah, today. I keep losing. Wait I don't want to come and go to RWS."
He smiles and says: "Don't, lah. Try again.
"Maybe later you will have better luck?"
The annual report released by the Casino Regulatory Authority last month says...
What Singaporeans and permanent residents forked out in casino entry levies last year. This is down from $195 million in 2011 and $216 million in 2010.
The daily average of casino visits by Singaporeans and permanent residents last year, down from 20,000 when the two casinos first opened.
7.7 per cent
The percentage of the local adult population who visited the casinos more than once in the last three years.
8 per cent
What the day levy purchases have dropped by, on average, since 2010.
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