Parliament: Casino exclusion: Group applications may be allowed

The National Council on Problem Gambling will consider allowing Singaporeans to apply for casino self-exclusion orders in groups, Minister for Social and Family Development Chan Chun Sing said yesterday in Parliament.

He was responding to a question from Mr Seah Kian Peng (Marine Parade GRC), who had asked if the current self-exclusion forms for locals could be modified to let them opt out of casinos as a group at their workplaces or through religious institutions such as churches and mosques. Currently, employers can submit a consolidated form for foreign workers - who do not have SingPass accounts - bearing applicants' signatures.

"We are prepared to work with employers and other relevant organisations to assess and design a form that can allow group applications," Mr Chan said. "But it must still be premised on the basis of individual ownership, responsibility and individual decision."

Ms Denise Phua (Moulmein-Kallang GRC) asked Mr Chan to consider an "opt-in" scheme, on top of the $100 entrance fee for residents. This would mean that individuals are automatically excluded unless they choose to opt in.

She argued that since the Government was spending so much money educating locals about the demerits of gambling, "why not just have a scheme whereby everybody is excluded?"

Ms Phua's suggestion led to a lively exchange between her and Mr Chan, who sought to clarify that she was not suggesting a "membership scheme" allowing individuals who opt in to visit the casinos any time they want.

Speaker of Parliament Halimah Yacob intervened at one point, saying: "In other words, you (Ms Phua) are suggesting all Singaporeans are prohibited unless they sign something to opt in, plus they pay $100."

Mr Chan said he would "think through the mechanics" of Ms Phua's suggestion. But he also said it would be better to have the community come together to help individuals with problems.

"Then I think we will have another layer of defence rather than just depending on a policing system to do that," he said.

This article was first published on January 20, 2015.
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