It is disappointing to learn that the Singapore government (through its subsidiary, Singapore Pools), will be hosting the World Lottery Association (WLA) Convention and Trade Show in November 2006. Not only is Singapore Pools spending millions to bring this event to Singapore, but top Singapore government leaders will also be making official appearances and giving speeches at the event. This official support and endorsement of a social vice like gambling is a sad reflection of the Government’s “economics first, everything else including morals is secondary” thinking.
According to a TODAY report (1 November), President S R Nathan will be the guest-of-honour at the opening dinner, Education Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam will visit the trade show and Ambassador-at-large Prof Tommy Koh will give a speech at the event. Then-Trade and Industry Minister George Yeo (now the Foreign Minister) had supported Singapore Pools’ bid several years ago by writing to the WLA.
The WLA is free to choose to hold their convention in Singapore, but the line ought to be drawn on official endorsement and financial support for this event:
- The appearance of the Head of State at the official opening dinner is the highest possible endorsement the Government can give this event.
- How are our teachers going to have the moral standing to lecture their students on the evils of gambling, when the Minister for Education is attending a gambling convention in his official capacity?
- Singapore Pools is spending $4 million of Singaporean gamblers’ losses to host this event, money which they have promised to “devote towards worthy causes that serve the needs of the community”. Does hosting a convention for rich lottery head honchos count as a “worthy cause”?
The reasons for hosting this convention are clear. The Government wants to make Singapore a conventions (a.k.a. MICE) hub. The WLA convention also boosts Singapore’s public profile as a destination for gamblers, which may in turn give a boost to the two upcoming casinos in Marina Bay and Sentosa.
But is economics all that the Government cares about? I hope more Singaporeans, especially those from the social service sector and religious organisations, will voice their objections to this unhealthy trend in Singapore, because it is becoming more and more obvious that we are on a slippery slope that will lead to the undoing of our society in the long run.