Problem Gambling and the Casinos

About a year has passed since the casinos in Singapore have opened. Both casinos, the Marina Bay Sands resort, MBS, and the Resorts World Sentosa, RWS have indisputably brought more money and tourists to this tiny red dot. In the first nine months of 2010, tourists have spent $13.7 billion, resulting in the 47% increase in the amount of money spent in the same time period last year. Singapore Tourism Board expresses that there are six categories of spending- sightseeing and entertainment, which includes spending at the two IRs, shopping, accommodation, at food and beverage outlets and medical expenditure. The increase in the amount of spending in the sightseeing and entertainment category increased the most, surging by more than 13 times over the same period last year. They attributed this increase to the spending in the two IRs.

Before the casinos were set up, the Minister of Health was strongly against this plan, and each time the Singapore Tourism board pushed forward the proposal, he would object to it and requested them not to go for "easy options", but to think hard about how they could be special and still attract the tourists without building a casino. STB tried- they tried using the Haw Par Villa, Volcano Land, remaking Sentosa many times. Meanwhile, Singapore's market share in tourism continued to shrink. However, when all other attempts did not work, Mr Khaw finally changed his mind when he saw the economical benefit was huge and the y could not ignore the many and much needed jobs that it would bring to Singaporeans. He had noted then that the prospective investors that were willing to put in astronomical amounts of money were prepared for more than one casino and they were confident that the rising Asian market was large enough for more than one casino. They were all ready for the foreign gamblers' arrival and were also confident that the amount of gamblers could support the casinos.

The casinos have many good points. Firstly, they bring in jobs for the public, and those working there do not need many skills. Hence, the casinos reduce the unemployment rate significantly in Singapore. Secondly, they bring more money to the country, thus improving the economy, and giving the government more money to spend on other important things like healthcare for the elderly, youth education, and infrastructure. Thirdly, they will attract more tourists to Singapore, who will contribute to the spending too, like in the report on the spending in the first nine months of this year. Fourthly, the IRs will introduce MICE tourism. MICE stands for Meetings, Incentives, Conventions and Exhibition. MICE is a very lucrative business and will attract many tourist to Singapore for meetings. In addition, they will be brought to the casinos on the incentive-based trips, where they will spend money. Also, these tourists may be businessmen here to set up exhibitions centres to advertise their products to the general public. There will also be performances in the IRs, including the newly set up Crane Dance, where ten-storey tall metallic birds dance in front of an estimated 1,000 audience.

However, the IRs is a double-edged sword. They have their disadvantages too. Gambling brings many social illnesses, such as pathological gambling, which is, in other words, gambling addiction. Pathological gambling is a serious mental disorder. It can cause huge damages to the person's health as well as that of his loved ones. They tend to bet more frequently and with higher stakes. They become restless and irritable easily when other attempt to stop them from gambling, and possess serious withdrawal symptoms. Some former addicts share their fearful experiences with gambling addiction. "I feel as though I am hypnotised when playing jackpot. It helps me to relieve stress. Also, I have friends at the gaming room and we are very supportive of each other." "I can't understand why I keep gambling. I always lose. Once I pay my creditors back, I return to gambling… I can't understand it."

I am sure everyone knows the Chia Teck Leng case. On 2 April 2004, Chia Teck Leng was sentenced to 42 years in jail, the longest jail term meted out for the largest case in commercial fraud in Singapore to date. He was a finance manager at Asia Pacific Breweries and he forged documents to cheat banks out of S$117 million over four years to feed his gambling addiction. Previously, the worst commercial fraud case was only held by Singapore Airlines' employee Teo Cheng Kiat, who embezzled S$35 million from the airline for over 13 years. He was convicted in 2000 and jailed for 24 years for the crime. It is scary even just to think of the astronomical amount Mr Chia cheated the banks of.

The amount of cases of gambling addictions has tripled, according to statistics released by the National Addictions Management Service, NAMS. Mr Thomas Lee, the acting chief of NAMS, has said that the number of gambling addicts has jumped from 5 per cent in 2007 to 17 per cent last year. He also expresses that most gamblers are 40 year old males that bet on soccer matches, lotteries and casino-related games. One patient says that he had a constant urge to gamble and he would lose all rationality when he had the cash to gamble. He had spent his over 1,000 dollar salary in a matter of days countless times and had even stolen his wife's money and valuables. Luckily, he went for treatment and is looking forward to the next chapter of his life.

In my opinion, gambling seems very addictive and it is easy to lose track of time when gambling. One's hard earned life savings can be gambled away in just a matter of days. In this aspect, gambling is scary, and addiction is even more so. Some casinos say that "The House always wins", and gamblers or would-be gamblers have to take note of that. Remember Mr Chia Teck Leng's experience. Although that is an extreme case, it will serve as a good deterrent. I am sure that no one wants to be jailed for 42 years. Some people get addicted more easily than others, and if your friends gamble twice a week and not be addicted, you can do so too. . However, it will be better not to gamble at all and not risk being addicted.

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Hi guys, I'm a student in Singapore, and this are some thoughts and essays I have written over the years.