Thursday, November 25, 2004

*Letter to ST Forum*

Casino Debate? What debate, the same arguments are constantly being repeated. WTF didn't the debate continue for other social issues. What makes this one so important?

Dear Sir,

I write in with reference to the entire casino debate and the major question on my mind is simply this. What new arguments or material have the naysayers offered us in this past month? It is evident that they have given up on the economic one and have since focused solely and repetitively upon society and personal morality or anecdotal evidence. Ultimately, not simply are they fighting a losing battle but unfortunately the wrong one at that.

It is simply incredulous to suggest that Singapore is not already a gambling society or one without its fair share of gambling problems. Gambling is already legal and sanctioned. For some, it is even a cultural thing. We have 4D, soccer and horse race betting, Toto. People go abroad to gamble, whether on cruises, in overseas resort, during festive seasons or even in illegal dens. Gambling addicts and associate problems with gambling have been around since the dawn of Singapore.

Hence, any ‘devaluation’ of our ‘image’ or values (family, Asian, religious or otherwise) must come directly from that of the casino itself. If so, the logical solution (but evidently one that they have chose to ignore) is that the casino should have reasonable safeguards. Better still, perhaps this will spur the government and civic society and groups to embark on a mission of harm reduction and handle the real problem, which is not gambling per se, but the associated and attendant harms that are already in existence.

In my opinion Dr Vivian Balakrishnan has already dealt admirably with the changing societal mores and the need for society and individuals to debate and acceptance change. Furthermore, this serves as a litmus test on how ‘ready’ our society is to take responsibility for our future.

Hence, while it is admirable to see the efforts put in by these naysayers, but unless they plan to ban all forms of gambling in our country, their enthusiasm and fervor is very much misplaced. Better if they set up a Gamblers Anonymous instead.


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