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More problem gamblers seek help in Singapore
[November 05, 2010]

More problem gamblers seek help in Singapore


SINGAPORE, Nov 05, 2010 (The Straits Times - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) -- The number of gamblers seeking help in Singapore has jumped by as much as 40 per cent since the casinos opened but addiction counsellors say the increase, for now, is a positive sign.



Counsellors and casino observers interviewed said the rise points to the success of problem gambling awareness campaigns, which have been stepped up with the opening of the two casinos.

Most, however, cautioned against interpreting the jump in problem gambling cases as being caused directly by the casinos.


Mr Charles Lee, senior counsellor at Tanjong Pagar Family Service Centre, said: "The opening of the casinos has helped to spread the message on problem gambling through TV and newspapers for example, and this has made it no longer taboo for gamblers to seek help." The service centre has received 130 problem gambling inquiries this year, 11 per cent more than last year. The number of gambling addicts seeking help at the centre has also increased by about 15 per cent from last year to 90 cases.

Similarly, the National Addictions Management Service (Nams) has seen more than 300 gambling addiction patients so far this year, topping last year's total of 290 cases.

From April to June, Nams had 179 gambling addiction patients, almost 46 per cent more than the 122 patients it saw during the same period last year.

A spokesman for the National Council on Problem Gambling (NCPG) attributed the record number of gambling addiction patients at Nams to its own efforts to highlight help resources for gamblers.

Most recently, it tied up with 12 organisations such as Premier Taxi and Koufu foodcourt chain to put up banners, posters, table-top stickers, decals and brochures with the NCPG hotline number and the message urging gamblers to know their limit.

Besides seeking counselling help, more are also applying to exclude themselves from casinos.

According to the latest figures from the council, 1,360 self-exclusion orders, or 88 per cent of orders, were applied for after the first casino opened in February.

Mr Lee stressed though, that most of the gamblers seeking help 'have a history that predates the opening of the casinos' and it is presumptuous to assume the casinos triggered their addiction.

Organisations that counsel gamblers do not track cases according to the form of gambling that triggered the addiction so there are no figures as yet on casino gambling addiction.

Reverend Tan Lye Keng, executive director of One Hope Centre, however, acknowledges that most gamblers seeking help at its centre have visited the casinos here. He added that among them are first-time gamblers who fell into problem gambling at the casinos.

Casino industry observer Derek da Cunha said although it is a positive sign that more are seeking help, the rate of relapse also needs to be monitored closely.

Reverend Tan expects the number of gamblers seeking help to continue to rise.

He said: "To help us cope with the increase in gamblers seeking counselling, we plan to invite overseas gambling counsellors to train our local staff." To see more of the Asia News Network, go to http://www.asianewsnet.net/home/ Copyright (c) 2010, The Straits Times, Singapore / Asia News Network Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services. For more information about the content services offered by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services (MCT), visit www.mctinfoservices.com, e-mail services@mctinfoservices.com, or call 866-280-5210 (outside the United States, call +1 312-222-4544).

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