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Fewer Singaporeans gambling, addictions remain low: Survey

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Those working with problem gamblers say this may be due to Covid-19 limiting opportunities

Fewer Singaporeans are gambling, while the number of those likely to have gambling addictions remains low, according to the latest survey by the National Council on Problem Gambling released yesterday.

This decrease could partly be due to Covid-19 restrictions limiting access to gambling opportunities, said those who work with problem gamblers.

In the 2020 edition of the survey, 44 per cent of Singapore citizens and permanent residents aged 18 and above polled said they had taken part in at least one form of gambling activity in the past year, down from 52 per cent in the 2017 survey.

This decrease was observed across most demographic groups and gambling products such as 4-D, Toto and social gambling.

The decrease is statistically significant, said the council, which has conducted the survey of 3,000 people every three years since 2005 to find out the extent and pattern of gambling.

But it noted that the percentage of the population that gambles has remained around 50 per cent since the first survey.

4-D continued to be the most popular game. Some 34 per cent placed a wager on 4-D, followed by Toto (31 per cent) and social gambling (16 per cent).

Just 1 per cent bet on horses or tried their luck at the jackpots in casinos here, while 0.3 per cent gambled online.

The survey also found that the median monthly betting amounts of gamblers decreased from $30 in 2017 to $15 last year, with 89 per cent of gamblers betting $100 or less a month.


A very small proportion (0.3 per cent) gambled with large amounts - more than $1,000 monthly, on average.

Due to Covid-19, there were restrictions on gambling activities during the survey period as operations, such as casinos and Singapore Pools, were suspended at points last year.

A Ministry of Social and Family Development spokesman said: "Even though we adjusted the survey to minimise the impact of these restrictions, they may still have affected responses."

Ms Tham Yuen Han, executive director at We Care Community Services, which runs support groups for gambling addicts, said another factor for the decrease could be that since the survey is based on self- reported data of the respondents, those with more compulsive gambling habits would have resorted to alternatives, such as illegal underground channels.

The report also found that the overall probable pathological and problem gambling rates among Singapore residents remained low at 1.2 per cent. Pathological gambling indicates more severe addiction compared with problem gambling.

Ms Tham said a stereotype of a gambling addict is that of an older male adult from a lower educational background and lower socioeconomic status.

"This stereotype is being challenged by the proliferation of digital media platforms and our increasing pace of technology adoption."