SINGAPORE: Centres which provide counselling for those with gambling problems welcomed the government's move to have more safeguards in place but added that more public education is still needed.
Since last year, One Hope Centre has been seeing more problem gamblers seeking help. While it welcomed the government's plans to expand casino exclusions to protect those in the lower-income group, it cautioned that that such measures can only go so far.
Mr Chan Boon Huat, who is the Head of Volunteer Management & Programmes at One Hope Centre, said: "The problem of addiction really starts from the heart of the person. If the drive is there, the person will still go back even if you have external measure to try to restrain the person. That is why you hear cases of people going to the casino despite having been served by exclusion order. They will find very creative ways to go in."
Tanjong Pagar Family Service Centre's senior counsellor Charles Lee, said: "With all the public education going on in regards to gambling addiction, more people are realising that they need help, especially those from aged 18 to the twenties. We are seeing more of this group of people coming in."
Besides casinos, counsellors said that online gambling is of growing concern especially amongst the youth. That is because they are tech-savvy and able to access gambling sites be it through their smartphone or through social networking sites.
Some suggest targeting the youth in schools.
Mr Chan said: "I think if done correctly, it could go a long way in educating the minds of the young to discourage them from gambling."
But one MP wants more drastic measures.
Deputy Chairman of the Government Parliamentary Committee for Community Development, Youth & Sports, Denise Phua, suggested raising the casino entry fee so that gamblers will be deterred.
She also wants to reduce the number of casinos.
Ms Phua said: "In the longer term, we have to make sure that we have the resolve not to set up a third casino and better still, to consider reducing the number of casinos from two to one or nil after the arrangements have expired with the current casinos.
"I believe that all that glitters is not gold. One of the good things that came out from the casino venture is excellent tourism products such as Resorts World and Marina Bay Sands' excellent convention centres. What we need to do during this time is to make full use of this period to learn as much as we can on how to develop excellent tourism products like theme parks and convention services to become an excellent regional hub for such services."
Meanwhile, both Marina Bay Sands and Resorts World Sentosa welcomed the government's initiatives.
They said they will work closely with the government and the National Council on Problem Gambling to promote responsible gaming.