SPEECH BY DR VIVIAN BALAKRISHNAN,MINISTER FOR COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT, YOUTH AND SPORTS AND SECOND MINISTER FOR INFORMATION, COMMUNICATIONS AND THE ARTS, AT THE SINGAPORE PROBLEM GAMBLING CONFERENCE 2007, 5 JULY 2007, 9.00 AM AT ORCHARD HOTEL
Mr Lim Hock San, Chairman, National Council on Problem Gambling
Distinguished Guests and Friends
Ladies and Gentlemen
I am pleased to join all of you for the opening of the inaugural Singapore Problem Gambling Conference 2007.
2 Gambling has expanded rapidly worldwide. In particular, technology has fuelled a significant growth in internet gambling. Easier access to gambling increases the risk of problem gambling.
3 A study conducted by the Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports in 2005 found that 2.1% of Singaporeans reported symptoms suggestive of probable pathological gambling. This number may be small at a macro level, but each individual and family afflicted by gambling addiction is one too many.
4 Research has shown that well-designed, evidence-based prevention programmes, education and support services can help reduce harm caused by gambling problems.
6 The National Council on Problem Gambling (or NCPG in short) is one of the key components of this national framework. It was set up in August 2005 to advise the Singapore Government on preventive, education and rehabilitative programmes to tackle problem gambling. The Council is also given the important task of deciding on applications to exclude persons from the casinos.
NCPG Responsible Gambling Code of Practice
7 The NCPG has started a dialogue with the major existing gambling operators, namely, the Singapore Pools and Singapore Turf Club, since last year to encourage them to adopt responsible gambling practices. They have also discussed this with the larger social clubs that also operate jackpot rooms. The outcome of these dialogues is the NCPG�s Code of Practice for Responsible Gambling. To date, Singapore Pools, Singapore Turf Club, and 12 social clubs and public sector staff recreation clubs have agreed to adopt. (Refer to Annex for list of clubs)
8 The Code contains practical steps that operators can adopt to help reduce potential problem gambling such as the display of prominent notices and brochures to remind customers not to gamble excessively and information on problem gambling helplines and services. The Code also covers the training of frontline and management staff to know more about problem gambling, including how to identify and refer problem gamblers for counselling and treatment services. The NCPG plans to work with the Community Addictions Management Programme (CAMP), run by the Ministry of Health, to design the staff training programme.
9 I hope that the gambling operators and major social clubs who have agreed to adopt the NCPG Responsible Gambling Code of Practice will diligently apply it be role models. I also hope that the smaller private clubs that run jackpot rooms will follow suit and avail themselves of the staff training that NCPG will run, to help them understand more about problem gambling and how they can help.
10 Most of the practices in the Code would be mandatory for the casinos and included in the legislation that regulate casino operations. I understand the NCPG will also include the casino operators in the dialogue on responsible gambling. Through ongoing discussions, the NCPG would work with the casino operators on additional responsible gambling initiatives over and above the practices contained in the NCPG Code and the casino legislation.
11 With industry support, we can reduce the social problems arising from gambling.
Achievements of the National Council on Problem Gambling
12 Aside from formulating the Responsible Gambling Code of Practice, the NCPG has also implemented many other initiatives to address problem gambling in its first term of office during the past two years. These include year-round public education campaigns to inform Singaporeans about problem gambling and how to seek help. The Council also played an instrumental role in developing and setting up the community-based problem gambling intervention services. It also embarked on an extensive stakeholder and public consultation exercise to gather feedback on how best to implement the casino exclusion measures.
13 I am also pleased that the NCPG has taken the initiative to organise this Conference to bring in renowned experts in the field to share on latest trends and research on problem gambling and best practices with policymakers, regulators, counsellors, educators, researchers and industry representatives in the region. There is much we can learn from each other and I hope the exchanges and ties continue beyond this Conference.
14 I wish you all a fruitful conference.
List of social clubs and public sector staff recreation clubs that have adopted the NCPG Responsible Gambling Code of Practice
1. Civil Service Club
3. NTUC Club
5. The Grassroots� Club
6. Club HDB
7. JOM-Clubhouse for Police Officers
8. MND Recreation Club
9. The People�s Association Staff Club
10. NTU Alumni Club
11. Senior Police Officers' Mess
12. JTC Recreation Club