Many in the gaming industry support and promote responsible gaming practices as the bedrock for their operations. After all, the business model for any company would not be sustainable, should their products bring harm rather than value to their consumers.
At the same time, there are others who view the very concept of responsible gaming with much skepticism. It is not uncommon to hear “Responsible Gaming” being labelled as “ambiguous” and “oxymoronic”.
How does Singapore Pools walk the talk? As the legal operator in Singapore, Singapore Pools is highly committed to provide a safe environment for betting. Social safeguards to prevent excessive game-play are judiciously implemented across the entire customer journey: right at the start of the game design stage, to the choice of words, tone and imagery used in product communication materials, down to restricting entry and sales to the under-aged as well as additional measures such as offering self-exclusion options to customers.
Over and above these safeguards, RG Ambassadors are deployed by Singapore Pools at “live” betting venues to keep a watch-out for signs of problem gambling. These trained professionals look out for customers who might require some reminders not to play beyond their means. For a look behind the scene, we interviewed Mr Manjit, a full-time counsellor whom Singapore Pools has engaged as an RG Ambassador (a non-employee) since the programme started five years ago in 2011.
SG Pools: What is a typical scene during “live” football betting at Livewire?
Manjit: I am mostly stationed at Livewire (Marina Bay Sands) during live betting. There are about 250 people on any given Saturday; majority of customers are male, about 40 years old, and a mixture of local and foreigners. About 75% are regular customers. The atmosphere is lively but becomes boisterous when there is a near miss or a goal being scored. Generally, customers are in a happy and relaxed mood. Most of them place modest bets.
SG Pools: Given the difficulty in spotting signs of problem gambling and sensitivity of the matter, how do you approach patrons?
Manjit: If I suspected a patron of having a gambling problem, I start by asking him two questions: "once you start gambling, can you walk away? Do you feel compelled to gamble till your last dollar, increasing the bet amount in a bid to recover money lost previously?"
If he is receptive, I will help him to understand that feeling desperate to recoup losses is a red flag. I will highlight that after spending the last dollar, he might feel compelled to borrow, sell, or even steal for money. It can become a vicious cycle, causing him to fall deeper in a hole. I will advise him to take a hard and honest look at how gambling is affecting his life. However, I will assure him that asking for help is not a sign of weakness.
SG Pools: How many customers do you typically approach each time? Do any of them require any follow-up assistance?
Manjit: I usually speak to about 10 to 15 patrons each time I am on duty to build rapport. It’s not easy to spot someone needing my help without knowing their background. In my time as an RG Ambassador, I have referred one patron to professional help. While on duty in early 2013, I met a former classmate, Benedict. He confided in me of his gambling addiction. He had lost all his money, his family and became homeless. He asked for my help.
I contacted a good friend of mine - Pastor Edward Job, Executive Director of Christian Care Services. Pastor Job took him in immediately. A recovering gambling addict himself, Pastor Job ran a highly successful gambling addiction rehabilitation programme before passing away last year.
I kept in touch with Benedict in the next few years, visiting him regularly at a halfway house. After completing a year of gambling rehabilitation programme, Benedict stayed for another year before leaving in early 2015. He has stopped gambling. Now, he drives a taxi and lives in a rented HDB flat with his fiancée.
SG Pools: What advice do you have for customers who enjoy catching sports telecast in Livewire?
Manjit: I cannot emphasise enough how important it is to play responsibly – to bet within one’s means. Set a time and money limit. Betting is a leisure activity, so spend within your means. It is not a means to make a living. If you chase losses, you are more than likely to get into debt. Don’t go down that road.
Mr Manjit’s professional qualifications
|Bachelor of Arts in English (Southern Illinois University, USA)|
Certified Gambling Addiction Counsellor (Association of Professionals Specialising in Addiction Counselling (APSAC), Singapore)
Specialist Diploma in Counselling Psychology (Academy of Certified Counsellors, Singapore)
Certified Substance Abuse Therapist Level III (Asia Pacific Certification Board, Singapore)
Certified Substance Abuse Addiction Counsellor (Association of Professionals Specialising in Addiction Counselling (APSAC), Singapore)
Diploma in School Counselling (National Institute of Education, Singapore)
Member on the Panel of Assessors (National Council on Problem Gambling, Singapore)