The SDP had opposed the PAP's move to allow the construction of casinos in Singapore in 2005. The government's rationale then was that there was money to be made off the gambling scene in Asia.
Not every business venture should be pursued just because it makes money. There are moral and ethical considerations too.
Gambling is a vice and its social ills are widely documented. Lives and families are destroyed because of addiction to gambling. Gambling also brings along other criminal activities such as money laundering, organised crime and sex trafficking.
Just this year, for example, two people were engaged in gambling related crimes. A Singaporean was caught laundering nearly one million dollars in Australia in order to gamble. In a separate case, a UOB officer stole a total of $95,000 from the bank to pay for his gambling habit in Macau.
For these complex and intertwining reasons, gambling – especially one facilitated by the state – should not be encouraged.
Minister for Social and Family Development Tan Chuan-jin disingenuously argues that the PAP, by allowing state organisations such as Singapore Pools and the Singapore Turf Club to conduct online betting, is not encouraging gambling.
He says that the move will, instead, allow that government to monitor the “very real dangers” of virtual gambling. However, he doesn't spell out how the authorities will overcome these dangers by legitimising gambling over the Internet.
The truth is that with or without the state's entry into the online world of gambling, those who seek to indulge in the gaming habit will find ways on the Internet to satisfy their desires. Providing additional and state-sanctioned gaming sites adds to, not minimises, the problem.
One factor that is prompting the government to enter into the online gambling business is that it sees its revenue falling due to poor economic circumstances. By getting into the act, the government opens up another avenue for revenue collection.
The problem is that gambling exploits the dreams and hopes of the poor who are most vulnerable to and who can least afford such activity.
There are many ways to develop a sound and mature economy without resorting to this kind of exploitation. Instead of making money from Singaporeans placing online bets, the PAP should free up the political system and encourage innovation and entrepreneurship. This will generate a productive economy and drive sound economic growth without adversely affecting our families.
This latest measure is another step in a slow but certain descent into turning Singapore into a city without any values, and one ruled by a government with no ideas beyond exploiting the people.
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