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S’poreans remain second-biggest gamblers in the world

SINGAPORE — Singaporeans are still the second-biggest gamblers in the world, but the latest statistics from a British gambling consultancy indicate that losses incurred per adult resident here have fallen from three years ago.

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SINGAPORE — Singaporeans are still the second-biggest gamblers in the world, but the latest statistics from a British gambling consultancy indicate that losses incurred per adult resident here have fallen from three years ago.

The average adult resident in the Republic lost €680 (S$1,189) last year, down from €822 (worth S$1,451 at the time) in 2010, according to H2 Gambling Capital.

Almost half the amount last year was lost in casinos, with the remainder going to lotteries, non-casino gaming machines, betting and offshore gaming websites.

Last year’s numbers were published on news magazine The Economist’s website on Monday and showed Singapore ranking second behind Australia in terms of gambling losses per adult resident.

Total gambling losses incurred by Singapore, which include losses by tourists and other visitors here, amounted to S$9.9 billion.

Ten countries including the United States, China, Japan and Britain racked up bigger gambling losses, with the US coming up tops at US$119 billion (S$151.1 billion).

Explaining why Singapore ranked second for gambling losses per resident adult, H2’s founder Simon Holliday cited the highly legalised and regulated industry here as a factor, in addition to the relatively high propensity to gamble and easy access to most forms of gambling.

“I’d think there are much higher rates of gambling in other Asian countries but it’s not regulated. This is why Singapore comes out high on this list,” he told TODAY.

“Singapore is probably the only Asian country where you actually get a realistic assessment of what people are actually gambling on.”

When tourists and visitors’ gambling losses are taken into account, the losses incurred per adult here is S$1,964, said Mr Holliday.

H2’s numbers are derived from sources including public results of the two casino operators here, as well as websites that permit Singaporeans to bet.

The company’s tally on Singapore’s total gambling losses would come as no surprise to industry players, who would be well aware of the win-loss ratio of the casinos here, said economist Song Seng Wun.

Given the hefty cost of developing the Marina Bay Sands and Resorts World Sentosa integrated resorts, “it’s also partly business sense that the casinos here jig their odds in their favour to make money”, said the regional economist at CIMB-GK Research.

Betting duties collected by the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore indicate that the industry here has been stable for the past three years, added Mr Song.

Taxes collected in the 12 months until November last year were S$2.331 billion. The figure was S$2.349 billion from December 2011 to November 2012, and S$2.342 billion the year prior to that.

When approached, the National Council on Problem Gambling said it does not track information on gambling losses. A spokesperson pointed to findings of its 2011 survey, which found that the average monthly betting amount was S$212. The survey also showed probable pathological and problem gambling rates remaining largely unchanged from 2008.

As at Nov 30 last year, there were 1,624 family exclusion orders for the casinos issued, 139,966 active self-exclusions and 46,208 third-party exclusion orders.

A Casino Regulatory Authority spokesperson told TODAY that it was not approached by H2 for data and is unable to comment on the data published by The Economist.

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