Official endorsement for lottery operators’ meet disappointing

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.

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Technorati: Singapore, government, gambling, casino, World Lottery Association, convention

Author: Gerald Giam

Gerald Giam is the Member of Parliament for Aljunied GRC. He is a member of the Workers' Party of Singapore. The opinions expressed on this page are his alone.

7 thoughts on “Official endorsement for lottery operators’ meet disappointing”

  1. It is good that President Nathan and Tharman are going. They have to go and make the Integrated resort work, and the best was is to introduce the school kids to gambling / gaming from a young age.

  2. Brilliant! Just like how the tobacco companies target kids in their smoking ads so that they will be assured of a future customer base.

  3. I respect everyone’s ones rights to their own views. But what is wrong with gambling? At the end of the day, life in itself is a gamble. Every choice we make involves weighing off the perceived benefits and risks to our lives. A young penguin has a choice of jumping into seal infested waters to find food or risk starving on land. A university student has to choose between a well paying job with lesser upside or a riskier startup firm that pays less now. If a person wants to sit on a table and play a game that has odds stacked against him; is that not his choice? I think he’s a fool but is it our prerogative to say that it’s wrong when we ourselves gamble every day?

  4. To anonymous:
    The gambling you talk about is different from the gambling you do in Singapore Pools.

    No doubt it is not up to us to be definite about whether gambling is right or wrong. Some people (like my mum) gamble and do actually win some money from it, because they know exactly when and how to curb themselves.

    Unfortunately, not everybody is capable of that. Gambling, as everybody should be aware, does have dire consequences when it gets out of hand. Gambling cultivates laziness too and dependency on ‘fate’.

    It is sad that prominent political figures are supporting the event because by doing so, they are advocating gambling. Young children will think gambling is good for them. Gambling addicts will cite to their kin that ‘even the gahmen supports gambling, so who are you to stop me from gambling all your hard-earned money away’.

    Occasionally, I write to The Straits Times forum about my thoughts on such issues, but as we all know, ST tends to publish things in relation to the government’s agenda. Guess we can only vent our indignation here.

  5. You make a very valid point that Gambling when it gets out of hand does have very dire consequences but (going back to the topic of the blog) to suggest that the ‘celebrity endorsement’ provided the Gahmen would be justification for further gambling is a little far stretched. No doubt there may be one or two people who may indeed do so but those will be quite few and far in between.

  6. I work with the kids of some immates, and the kid has his Father in prison, Eldest Uncle is about to complete his sentence in prison, and the youngest uncle is in Malaysia, escaping from the loansharks.

    I did not ask them why they are in the prison, but I know it’s gambling related…. I also know of people who have committed suicide due to owing too much money.

    Some people may think, they SHOULD KNOW the consequences of gambling. Many of us are able to think from our perspectives only… from the comfort of our full functional family/life. If you can understand that his dad was not educated enough about the vices(he was told, but not educated)… hence leading to the suffering of his family… if you can try to step out, and reach out to the less fortunate families, and understand that at the grassroot level, this is a major issue/problem… then you may want to support lesser endorsement of gambling… not to wipe out the number of gamblers, but merely not to increase gambling’s exposure.

    Just my 2cts

  7. Thanks for all your comments. Please keep the discussion flowing.

    Anonymous – You are certainly welcome to express your view. But I reserve the right to respectfully disagree with your views supporting the casino.

    Some of the issues raised in this discussion were also mentioned during the casino debate last year. My latest post contains some extracts of the speeches made in Parliament arguing against the casino.

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