Problem gambling rates fall in Singapore, British Columbia

TAGs: British Columbia, Canada, problem gambling, Singapore

british-columbia-singapore-problem-gamblingProblem gambling rates in Singapore have fallen to a 10-year low. The latest triennial Gambling Participation Survey saw the city-state’s overall problem gambling rate fall from 2.6% in 2011 to 0.7% in 2014.

The survey of 3k adult Singaporeans showed 44% participated in some form of gambling in the previous 12 months, with the most popular form being the 4D lottery at 35%. That was followed by Singapore Pools’ Toto sports betting (27%) and the Singapore Sweep lottery (16%), with social gambling accounting for 10%. To be clear, the latter category represents casual betting with friends, not online social gaming.

Gamblers are also wagering smaller stakes than three years ago, with the average monthly betting total falling from S$212 in 2011 to just $70 last year. The ranks of those betting over $1k was just 0.3%.

The only significant area of concern was the number of probable pathological gamblers, which, while falling from 1.4% in 2011 to 0.2% in 2014, showed that some gamblers were developing problems at a younger age. Among those defined as exhibiting probable pathological gambling behavior, 17% said they’d developed their bad habits before that age of 18, compared to 5% in 2011.

Meanwhile, the Canadian province of British Columbia saw its ranks of moderate or high-risk problem gamblers fall from 4.6% in 2008 to 3.3% last year. Of those deemed to have difficulty controlling their gambling, the ranks of problem gamblers fell from 3.7% to 2.6% while the more serious pathological gambling category fell from 0.9% to 0.7%.

The 2014 BC Problem Gambling Prevalence Study (read it here) of 3,058 adults showed 72.5% had engaged in some form of gambling in the previous 12 months, essentially unchanged from 2008. Over half (56.3%) of gamblers said they spent about the same amount as five years ago, while the remainder were evenly split between gambling more and gambling less.

Lotteries were the most popular form of gambling at 81.6%, well ahead of gambling at casinos (28%), private card or dice games (22.2%), wagering with friends, co-workers or bookies (12.3%), day-trading stocks (7.7%), bingo (5.7%), horseracing (5.4%) sports lotteries (3.9%) and live poker tournaments (3.9%).

More affluent respondents were more likely to gamble, with 79.3% of those with annual household incomes over $100k and 78.2% of those with incomes between $50k and $100k reporting gambling in the past 12 months. By comparison, participation was only 69.2% of those with incomes below $30k.

Just 61.9% of respondents between the ages of 18 to 24 years reported gambling in the past year, well below senior citizens (70.8%) and those 25 to 34 years old (73.9%). Those aged 35 to 64 years ranked highest at 75.1%.

While respondents aged 18 to 24 years were least likely to gamble, they also displayed a higher rate (7.3%) of problem gambling than the average. The rates were also higher among individuals of Southern Asian ethnic origin (8%), Aboriginal, Inuit or Métis ethnicity (5.5%) and those with annual incomes under $30k (7.6%).

In keeping with other national studies, the Survey found that 36.4% of problem gamblers experienced mental health issues – mood or anxiety disorders, thoughts of suicide, etc. – compared to just 13.5% of people without gambling problems. Problem gamblers were also far more likely (34.7%) to have issues with drugs or alcohol than other gamblers (19.2%).

Interestingly, just 66.4% of respondents who were single or never married reported gambling in the past year, compared to 75.1% of those who were married or living in a common-law relationship. So there you have it…. Apparently, gambling is an escape from the drudgery of your significant other.

Online gambling – whether with the province’s own or internationally licensed sites – was enjoyed by just 3.7% of respondents in 2014, up 0.7 points from the 2008 survey. Men (3.8%) were more than twice as likely to gamble online than women (1.5%), a similar ratio exhibited in other categories including live card games, sports betting and stock trading.

But among respondents who were asked to cite a favorite form of gambling, the online variety garnered just 1% support, well below lotteries (43.6%), casinos (11.1%), private dice or card games (10.6%) and sports betting (2.9%), although online scored higher than sports lotteries (0.9%) and live poker tournaments (0.7%).

In terms of frequency of gambling participation, online gambling scored a daily participation rate of 10.1%, second only to day-trading stocks (12.3%). In the ‘several times per week’ and ‘several times per month’ categories, online gambling scored 14.7% and 28.9% respectively, the highest of all forms of gambling.

The Survey said there was a stronger connection between problem gamblers and online gambling, although this must be judged against the Survey’s finding that problem gamblers are also far more likely to engage in a large variety of gambling activities. The Survey’s authors also cautioned that all its online gambling stats should be taken with a grain of salt given the small number of respondents who reported engaging in online gambling.

For instance, the Survey also noted a much stronger connection between problem gambling and annual incomes under $30k, while studies from Statistics Canada have shown that online gambling is enjoyed primarily by individuals occupying higher rungs of the socio-economic ladder. The survey also found that, in male problem gamblers, there was a stronger connection with day-trading than with online gambling.

Even assuming there is an increasing association between online gambling and problem gamblers, a gathering body of evidence suggests that the effect is short-lived and that society adapts its behavior as the thrill of the new wears off.


views and opinions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of