PAP MP DENISE PHUA: S’PORE SHOULD SHUT DOWN ALL OUR CASINOS

It is time for the Republic to “take a bold step and reject gambling, whether remote or on-site”, Ms Denise Phua said in Parliament on Tuesday (Oct 7).

“When will Singapore wean itself off the casino industry, reduce the casinos from two to one to nil, especially in the light of new potential entrants such as Japan and other Asian countries?” asked the Moulmein-Kallang GRC MP.

“We need a holistic longer-term game plan to reflect our principles and intent,” she added. “Just as we are bold enough to explicitly stand by principles such as the family is the first port of call for help; that extra marital relationships are not encouraged; we need to express our stand on licensed gambling in Singapore, whether online or via brick-and-mortar casinos.”

She added that 10 years after Singapore “made the fateful decision of authorising licensed casino operators for the sake of jobs in an economic recession”, it is time for the Government to “discourage gambling as an economic or social activity”.

“With the tightening of foreign labour in Singapore, have the casinos now become competitors for manpower from our local SMEs,” asked Ms Phua. “If manpower is so precious, why would we divert precious manpower to learn the casino business, whether in physical establishments or online?”

Ms Phua also called for more to be done to discourage gambling by local residents. She proposed that casino entry fees be raised from S$100, and to change casino entry to an opt-in system so that only those who wish to gamble sign up.

A TOTAL BAN ON REMOTE GAMBLING?

Speaking on the second reading of the Remote Gambling Bill in Parliament, Ms Phua said she fully supported the move by the Government to tighten the remote gambling sector.

She also called for a total ban of remote gambling, adding that the Government should not send the signal to Singaporeans that “remote gambling is fine as long as it is under a state licence”.

Asking why the Government “should support exempt operators and be part of an undesirable social phenomenon”, she also called having an exempt operator a “no-win” situation.

“(Exempt operators) will have to put in their best to lure customers to meet their KPI (key performance indicators) of being good in their trade and be profitable,” said Ms Phua. “If they become extremely good, they will no doubt achieve their KPIs and bonuses, they will also ruin more lives. However, if they are half-hearted in making their remote gambling license bear financial fruit, they would be ineffective in helping the State learn the ropes of enforcement.

“It is a no-win situation.”

Second Minister for Home Affairs S Iswaran had said in Parliament on Tuesday that the Bill will make provisions for a “tightly controlled exempt operator”, instead of having a complete ban on remote gambling. He added that having a regulated exempt operator can mitigate concerns that the Bill will drive remote gambling activities underground, drawing parallels with Singapore’s approach to terrestrial gambling.

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