COUNSELLORS yesterday welcomed the Government's move to bar more people from the casinos, but some questioned its impact on the two targeted groups.
The Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports announced yesterday that 15,000 more people on government aid or with rental arrears will be barred from the two casinos.
The counsellors said that only a small number of low-income gamblers is likely to be gambling at casinos. These people are more likely to 'dabble in other forms of gambling, like 4D or Toto, which involves only petty cash', said addiction specialist and psychiatrist Munidasa Winslow.
MPs said, however, that the move is preventive in nature.
'It will help this group as a deterrent, and reinforces our efforts to help them,' said Dr Lily Neo, an MP for Tanjong Pagar GRC.
Mr Seah Kian Peng, an MP for Marine Parade GRC, said that being able to prevent this group from getting into further financial problems is in itself a welcome move.
Reactions from residents affected by the ban were mixed.
Madam Sarjit Kaur, 60, thinks the ban is fair.
'If you're on ComCare, you shouldn't be going to a casino,' said the housewife, who is a Community Care Endowment Fund recipient and pays subsidised rent for her two-room Housing Board flat in Henderson Road.
However, another resident, Madam Helen Lim, 50, disagreed.
'It should be up to the individual,' said the odd-job worker, who is also banned from the casinos because of outstanding subsidised rent payments of more than six months for her Toa Payoh HDB flat.
As for what more can be done to help this group, MPs and counsellors pointed to improving community safeguards.
Empowering those receiving government support with better job prospects and family support is important, said Dr Neo. Social workers and grassroots organisations have a key role to play with this support, she added.
Dr Winslow said having more 'touch points' in the community - where people can get counselling help easily for their gambling problems - is key.
Mr Chan Boon Huat of voluntary welfare organisation One Hope Centre said that the ease of gambling is a topic that should be addressed.
'Gambling has become so easily accessible nowadays, it can be done even through a mobile application,' he said.
Mr Dick Lum, a psychotherapist and volunteer facilitator at Christian Care Services Singapore, said: 'If social ills get more dire, it may be necessary to expand the ban to include other categories of welfare recipients, like the one- or two-roomers.'
Additional reporting by Miranda Yeo