BUSINESS

Study: Singapore gambling habits largely unaffected since casinos opened

TAGs: Marina Bay Sands, problem gambling, Resorts World Sentosa, Singapore

singapore-gambling-surveyA survey of Singapore’s gamblers by the National Council on Problem Gambling (NCPG) shows that the levels of both problem gamblers and pathological gamblers have remained relatively stable since Singapore’s two integrated resort (IR) casinos – Resorts World Sentosa and Marina Bay Sands – launched in 2010. The first NCPG study since 2008 queried 3,315 Singapore residents about their gambling habits. The numbers of pathological gamblers rose slightly from 1.2% in 2008 to 1.4%, while the problem gambling rate fell from 1.7% to 1.2%. Both figures are within the range of random fluctuation, suggesting not much has changed since 2008, despite the fact that the two IRs have performed so well their revenues are expected to eclipse the entire Las Vegas Strip this year.

Singapore authorities have implemented measures to discourage locals from frequenting the casinos, including a daily S$100 entry fee. And there are signs that, following an initial flurry of interest, Singaporeans have gotten over the IRs novelty factor. Marina Bay Sands claims the percentage of locals walking through its gates is just half of what it was 15 months ago (although the NCPG survey puts the decrease over the past 12 months at a more modest 9%), while Resorts World Sentosa attracted 31.7% less locals over the past year. In fact, gambling activity is even down away from the casinos. According to the survey, 47% of adult residents participated in some form of gambling activity in 2011, compared to 54% in 2008.

Despite the positive numbers, a few hardcore gamblers are betting the farm with increasing frequency. While the overall median monthly betting amount fell from $100 in 2008 to just $40 in 2011, the average amount rose from $176 to $212. Among the pathological gambling crowd, the average monthly bet almost tripled since 2008, increasing from $619 to $1,713. The study identifies these über-bettors as predominantly Chinese males clustered in the 18-29 and 40-49 age brackets, earning between $2k-$3k per month. To help protect these degens from themselves, authorities are considering the implementation of a number of techniques, including so-called ‘circuit breakers’ utilized by Australia and some European countries to curb the ability of gamblers to ‘chase’ losses.

While Singapore’s casinos are relying on a steady influx of international arrivals, the curbs designed to keep locals out of the IRs may be encouraging them to gamble more online. Global Betting and Gaming Consultants estimated that online gambling sites took in US $357.2m from Singapore residents in 2011, up from $312.5m in 2010 and $271.5m in 2010. A spokesperson for Chan Chun Sing, Minister for Community Development, Youth and Sports, told the Straits Times that Betfair and Ladbrokes were among the more popular sites frequented by Singapore residents. Hmm… Wonder how shareholders would feel about these companies offering services to a market without the approval of local authorities?

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