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Controversy Fills Singapore's Casino Debate

20 September 2004

SINGAPORE – As reported by the Asia Business Times: "The issue of legalising casino gaming in Singapore has so far proved every bit as controversial as it had promised to be.

"…One particularly thoughtful letter, which BT ran on Sept 17, came from Alan Lim, who argued that the profits of casino gaming are privatised, while the costs are socialised.

"This is not quite accurate - as Mr Lim himself conceded, because a casino gaming industry would have positive spin-off effects for the tourism, convention and hospitality businesses, although the likely extent of these in the Singapore context needs to be studied.

"…But the more apparently compelling arguments against a casino gaming industry have to do with social costs. And here, it is often suggested (indeed, automatically assumed) that legalisation of gaming will lead to a greater incidence of ills such as bankruptcies, as well as crimes like money laundering, fraud, embezzlement and loan sharking.

"…However, the actual evidence runs counter to the popular impressions. The statistics show that in most jurisdictions, crime rates actually declined in the subsequent 20 years. Nor is there any relationship between the legalisation of gaming and the rise of bankruptcies and fraud.

"…The studies also found that the incidence of addictive gambling was low compared with that of other psychiatric disorders.

"…In addition, it was found that problem gambling was associated with mood disorders such as mania and depression.

"…In other words, the research shows that pathological gambling is not so much a 'vice' as it is a medical issue. Can it be treated? Yes, provided it is recognised for what it is, rather than being viewed as a moral problem and left untreated - as is often the case when gaming takes place underground…"

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