Problem gambling is a social problem that needs addressing. As it stands, the issue is already difficult to manage because gambling, like vice and substance abuse, has been part of the human condition for millennia.
Recently, Singapore Pools and the Singapore Turf Club (STC) submitted their applications to be exempt from the Remote Gambling Act passed in 2014. If successful, that would mean Pools and STC would be allowed to promote and sell gambling services online.
Here are some of the worst effects of online gambling for the average Singaporean and the government to consider.
Problem Gambling becomes invisible online.
A problem gambler can now play at work, home, on their smartphones, handphones, and any other connected device without anyone to monitor and control them.
You can’t ban a problem gambler from a website.
You can restrict a gambler from walking into a casino, but you can’t ban a gambler from accessing a site. Or at least not for long. Problem gamblers will find ways to circumvent electronic bans.
Gambling can become ubiquitous online, so gamblers cannot “avoid temptation”
Gamblers who want to kick their habit typically avoid casinos or other physical locations where gambling is made available. With online gambling, temptation is only a click or a swipe away.
Ease of access between bank accounts and gambling accounts is a financial risk.
Smartphone technology has made it so convenient with internet banking, gamblers may only need to key in their bank account once, sync it with their betting accounts, and watch as the money bleeds away.
How well secured and regulated will an official gambling website be?
If you can’t beat them, join them! That’s what Pools and STC seem to be saying in response to the wave of online gambling apps and websites that is slowly leeching away their sources of income.
But running a well protected website or app with the appropriate cybersecurity measures, along with the appropriate social controls instituted to prevent the worsening of problem gambling is no mean (or cheap) feat.
Unless Pools and STC are committed to protecting their customers and the wider society from the ills of cyber-theft and problem gambling, the government might want to consider not approving their applications for exemption.
Gamblers forget that online money is still real money.
Gamblers may find it too easy to use credit cards to deposit money into online accounts, making it seem like a really quick way to access funds for their gambling habit. They may eventually realise their indebtedness only when it is too late.
Are online games “fair”?
If dealers and other gamblers can “game” a real life bet, what makes you think that online hustlers cannot do the same for an online game? This goes back to the cybersecurity measures that Pools and STC are prepared to invest in, and to what extent are Pools and STC willing to ensure that their gaming odds are not programmed too unfairly against gamblers.
Collusion between online hustlers.
You go to a game full of strangers, you play but you keep losing!
You might have just walked up to a table of cheats who have already colluded to make sure that everyone except you wins at the game.
Joel Koh is an aspiring part time writer and journalist with a day job.