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Voice of America News
Gambling is legal in the Asian city-state of Singapore, but residents there are about to be bombarded with media messages warning them against becoming addicted to games of chance.
Singapore’s National Council On Problem Gambling (NCPG) is targeting its anti-gambling campaign – called “Know the Line” – at groups believed vulnerable to getting hooked on gambling.
It is a part of the group’s ongoing efforts to raise public awareness of the problem and to provide help for people addicted to gambling.
The NCPG tackles gambling problems
The National Council On Problem Gambling (NCPD) was set up in Singapore after casino gambling was legalized in 2005. At that time, the government acknowledged the potential social costs of gambling and agreed to take steps to address the issue.
The NCPD was given the jobs of advising Singapore’s Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports on gambling issues, distributing funds to gambling treatment programs and deciding who would be excluded from casinos.
A government survey in 2008 found that 54% of Singapore residents over the age of 18 had participated in some form of gambling in the previous 12 months. The survey indicated that 0.7% to 1.6% of respondents could be classified as “pathological gamblers.”
Some get hooked
“Most if not all gambling starts out as recreational,” explains Keith Whyte, executive director of the U.S. gambling addiction organization, The National Council on Problem Gambling (no relation to the Singapore group).
He adds that after experiencing an initial period of winning, people see gambling losses mount and then a sense of desperation sets in. “The odds are against you. The odds are with the house,” he says. “They may see the only way back to financial health is to gamble more,” he said.
Whyte says gambling addicts have one or more of these characteristics: a strong preoccupation with gambling, a loss of control while gambling and actual harm (financial, psychological or physical) done due to gambling.
These are factors that Singapore officials are trying to help their citizens avoid.
At a conference on problem gambling this year, Singapore Government Minister Yu-Foo Yee Shoon congratulated the NCPG for its public education and outreach efforts. She cited a group survey that showed public understanding of the issue has doubled from 32% in 2006 to 71% in 2008.
The NCPG hopes its latest media campaign will make those figures rise even higher.