Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The Social Ramifications of Problem Gambling.

Compulsive gambling is a vice. Addiction to gambling causes undue stress to the gamblers as well as their immediate families. Gambling problems exist and prevail all the while. Ironically, only now the National Council on Problem Gambling (NCPG) is highlighting the social ills associated with it. And the government is building two Integrated Resorts to promote gambling. How ironic!!

Suddenly, it became front page news.Is there such thing as responsible gambling ? Where do we draw a line as to say how and what is responsible gambling.? The ramifications of compulsive gambling is far and wide. It is easy said than done. It will be a gigantic task for NCPG to contain its resultant effect.

We take clubs that have licence to operate slot machines. NTUC club is the champion in this respect. The amount of money people slot into the jackpot machines is staggering. And majority of clubs are maintained largely by the revenue from the slot machines though the tax on it is high - over 40%.

Many jackpot players are so hooked to the machine that they can spend five hours and above just to slot in coin after coin, hoping the next pull or rather the next press will give them a jackpot claim. A human weakness of false hope and the reluctance to let go of the machine, afraid that the next player will strike when they let go.

The amount of money collected monthly comes to millions by all the clubs combined together and NTUC has a better slice of the cake which runs 200 machines as stated in the Straits Times of July 6, 2007. The sad truth of jackpot addiction.

Feedback and hearsay from diehard players who lost and just cannot come clean of the game is heartbreaking. People losing their CPF money, their cars and even their 3-rm flats playing jackpot. Many a sad but true happennings of such cases abound if you stay in the jackpot room to listen to their woes and stories.

Personally, I was intrigued by the fact that I visited the jackpot rooms in clubs to observe and gather information. And I did play for a while. And know what! I have never won. I was and am still at a loss why people knowing that out of ten times, they will lose nine and a half times, yet they keep on going back to play the jackpot.

So, this is where NCPG has a big row to play. The various counselling agency on gambling must step in to help. Many gamblers will never admit they have a problem. The sad truth is that many a problem associated to compulsive gambling is discovered too late. And many families will be affected by this social ills of irresponsible gambling. A responsible gambling will become irresponsible.

Our human weakness can never resist the next and yet another next try to recoup the losses. A gambler's fantasy. We will always deceive ourselves. So bring in the experts for help. But why go to such extent when "Prevention is better than Cure."

Gambling is a serious evil business.

Patrick lee song juan
(First written to the S.Times Forum and
published on the online letters, 11th July 2007)