Gambling : Singaporeans’ billion dollar pastime

On 18 April 2004, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced the government's decision to build two integrated resorts, in Marina South and Sentosa.  Even before the two casinos open their doors, Singaporeans are already gambling away billions of dollars each year. 

Singapore Pools, the government-linked lottery operator, revealed that it has a yearly turnover of $4 billion, which works out to a staggering $11 million per day.  Not including illegal betting or speculation in the stock or derivatives, at least $7 billion was spent on gambling in 2004.  A survey conducted by the Ministry of Communication Development, Youth and Sports (MCYS) in early 2005 indicated that 58% of the Singaporeans aged 18 years and above had gambled over the past one year , with 2.1% in danger of gambling addiction.  In an another survey conducted between March and May 2006, six in ten Singaporeans had gambled over past 12 months from the time of the survey. 

In Singapore, a gambler spent an average of $244 every month on their stakes.  The lottery games offered by the Singapore Pools were most popular, with 4-D, Toto and Singapore Sweep taking the top three spots with more than 30% participation rate.  Social gambling, defined as mahjong and card games by the survey, was fourth, with a 17% participation rate.  Scratch it!, a scratched-and-win game launched a couple of months before the survey was conducted, gained quick popularity with 12% participation rate.  The less popular gambling pastimes of Singapore include table games and slot machines in local and overseas venues, sports betting, horse betting and online gambling.  However, more money was spent on these less popular activities.  An average of $387 and $288 were spent every month on sports betting and table games in cruises and casinos respectively.  The average betting amount for 4-D, Toto and Singapore Sweep were only $93, $48 and $27.  A survey conducted by Ngee Ann Polytechnic in 2003 also revealed that 40% of Singaporeans between the age 40 and 59 do not have sufficient retirement fund and were counting on Toto and 4-D windfall. 

It has become a common sight to see motorists and passers-by take down registration numbers of accident vehicles for their 4-D ventures.  Some audacious punters even appeared at murder sites and funerals of the victims to pray or look for lucky numbers.  There were also complaints that the TV charity shows, with their "donate and win big prizes" appeals, were being publicised like lottery to entice Singaporeans. 

Joshua Chia Yeong Jia

4-D and the sick. (2005, June 26). The Sunday Times , p. 24.

Even without a casino, Singaporeans love gambling to death. (2005, April 17).  Agence France Presse.

Leong, C. T., & Almenoar, M. (2004, December 18).  Can you afford to retireThe Straits Times, Special report, p. 2.

Lian, J. (2005, July 2). Giving to charity is now like gamblingThe Straits Times, Home, p. 15.

Long, S. (2005, July 2). Beast within gamblingThe Straits Times, Special report, p. 9.

Pereira, B. (1991, May 13).  $2b gambled away by SingaporeansThe Straits Times, Home, p. 20.

Pin jun mei ren hua yu liang qian yuan xin jia po ren mai cai quan guan quan qiu. (2005, May 11). Nanyang Siang Pau.

Singapore says yes to two integrated resorts with casinos. (2005, April 18). Channel NewsAsia.

Ministry of Communication Development, Youth and Sports. (2005, April 13).  More than half of Singapore gambles; but only 2 in 100 at risk of gambling addiction. Retrieved Mar 29, 2006, from

The information in this article is valid as at 2006 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources.  It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject.  Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.

Law and government>>Regulatory role>>Gambling
People and communities>>Social problems>>Compulsive gambling

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