Friday, October 14, 2016

Catholic Church calls for regular review of safeguards against ill effects of gambling in Singapore

Image result for Archbishop William GohThe Catholic Church in Singapore has urged the Government to “continually review” measures to minimise the ill effects of online gambling, after authorities gave Singapore Pools and Singapore Turf Club the nod to offer such services as soon as next month.

In a pastoral letter to Catholics in Singapore uploaded online on Wednesday (Oct 12), Archbishop William Goh wrote that the Church remains concerned about the possible ill-effects of a "gambling culture that could grip Singaporeans". 

He added that the Church has appealed to the authorities to closely monitor the effectiveness of the various safeguards put in place.

For instance, only those aged 21 and above are able to open player accounts have to be implemented. Punters are also not allowed to gamble on credit and they have to set daily funding and gambling limits.

Wrote Archbishop Goh: “The Catholic Church appreciates that the Government has done its due diligence to ensure that stringent measures are put in place to minimise the ill-effects of online gambling.

"We also recognise that the authorities have taken pains to consult, clarify and assure us that this move to allow restricted access to online gambling operators and their services is one that has been taken only after careful study of the environment and in consideration of the greater good of society."

He added: “Given that there is no way to totally eradicate illegal gambling online - and the risks such a move could have on the moral integrity and fabric of our society - we also recognise the Government’s dilemma in tackling this highly sensitive and controversial issue that continues to plague modern society.”

The Catholic Church has requested for more regular consultation and updates on the consequences of the Remote Gambling Act, he said.

"While we maintain that gambling is morally neutral, any adverse effects on our people need to be carefully considered, since not all gamblers are able to make prudent or conscientious judgement of their actions," he stated. 

"The effects of excessive gambling go beyond affecting just an individual, especially if the gambler is a bread winner. Family life and loving marriages can be destroyed or disrupted by the loss of income which could lead to stress, other mental health issues and even suicide."

Last week, the National Council of Churches said it is "deeply concerned" that the Government is sending "confusing and conflicting signals" with the partial lifting of the ban on online gambling and appealed for the Government to review the move.

Minister of Social and Family Development Tan Chuan-Jin has said the aim is to provide a "safer space" for online gamblers, instead of forcing them underground where they could be exposed to criminal elements.

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