Jackpot rooms come under self-exclusion scheme

SINGAPORE - Besides the two casinos here, Singaporeans and permanent residents can now ban themselves from jackpot rooms, under a new centralised self-exclusion system.

Launched yesterday by the Responsible Gambling Forum, the system will also extend to telephone betting services. All they need to do is apply online with their SingPass.

Of the 73 non-casino gambling operators who own about 2,000 jackpot machines here, only 12 have opted to come under the centralised system. They include the Civil Service Club, The Grassroots' Club and Singapore Polytechnic Graduates' Guild.

Nine other operators will come on board from August.

Telebetting services for Singapore Pools and Singapore Turf Club account holders will also fall under the self-exclusion system. However, excluded customers who walk into these venues will still be entertained.

Operators have said that they are committed to training their employees to identify patrons at risk so they can be offered help, said the Minister for Social and Family Development, Chan Chun Sing, the guest of honour at the event.

While he noted that Singapore still had a long way to go, saying that "we have but taken the first baby steps", he also pointed out that few countries have such a forum on responsible gambling.

The forum is made up of representatives from the community and the gambling industry. It was formed last year.

When asked why only a fraction of the operators have volunteered to be included in the system, Tan Soo Nan, co-chair of the forum, said: "For some of them, because they are small, they will need some time, in order to see what kind of resources they will need."

The chief executive of Singapore Pools, the only legal lottery operator here, added that it is important for bigger and more established industry players to share their expertise with smaller operators, who may not have as many resources.

Charlie Ng, general manager of the Civil Service Club, said that his club has had an exclusion system for its jackpot room for a long time.

He said that six people have been excluded from playing its 87 machines in the past two years. For four of them, it was their families who wrote to the club directly, asking that their relatives be barred.

Mr Ng added that his floor staff also observe their patrons and talk to them casually to see how they are doing.

"Sometimes they will say 'Wah, lose a lot of money, no more money'. Then we know there is a problem," he said.

Gerald Goh, clinical director of ECMS Consultants, who has experience in counselling gambling addicts, said that the centralised system is a big step forward.

"Previously, it was only the two casinos they couldn't go to. (But) they could still go to jackpot rooms, or the Turf Club. With this, I hope their chances of gambling are reduced," he said.

He felt that more operators should come on board, because they need to care about the community. He said that to just focus on making money is not sustainable in the long term.

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