More attention needed on gambling impact

Wednesday, September 1, 2010
Issue 1104, Page 1 & 2
Word count: 808
Published in: Macau Daily Times

By Poyi (Natalie) Leung

Macau needs to look at more than enhancing transportation and building more public housing and focus more attention on the problem of gambling addiction among young people, said a member of the Macau New Chinese Youth Association.

In mid-August the association led around 30 university students to Singapore for a one-week exchange tour, where they met with the country’s Young People’s Action Party (YP) to exchange views on the implementation of youth work and also learn about the policies for young people and students are available in Singapore.

According to Kou Ngon Fong, director of the College Student Affairs Committee of the association and also a member of the Government’s Public Housing Affairs Advisory Committee, the Macau delegation also visited the Housing Development Board and the Chinese Embassy in Singapore.

In the meeting with the YP, Kou told the Macau Daily Times that the Singapore Government was “very concerned” about the ill effects of gambling on the youths, a reaction that “surprised” the Macau youths.

“Singapore has just opened two casinos and they’re very nervous about how gambling may affect the young people,” Kou said.

Singaporeans who want to enter a casino have to be at least 21 years old, register their information and also have their identity cards checked at the entrance, Kou told the MDT.

“Macau in contrast is very casual and people above 18 years old can enter the casinos freely whenever they want,” he said.

“One of the high-level members of the YP, aged around 30 years old, told us that when he entered a casino he had to register at the door. And in the following three days he kept receiving text messages reminding him not to get addicted to gambling,” he said.

Kou stressed that civic education is “very important but nowadays Macau seems to only focus on the basic level, instead of specifically targeting how to prevent problem gambling or young people from gambling”.

He said that teenagers should be taught at schools about the importance of staying away from gambling and career counselling is also necessary at the same time for casino workers “who are more vulnerable to the negative influences of gambling”.

Among the young people that the association is usually in contact with, Kou said the problem of gambling addiction is not serious, but he believed that there are “many hidden problem gamblers” out there.

“Because when these people go to gambling they won’t participate in community activities,” he said.

The entire society generally “doesn’t pay much attention” to the issue of problem gambling and the focus is mainly on “transport, housing or the gaming industry’s development”, said Kou.

He blamed the Social Welfare Bureau (IAS) for not putting enough effort into preventing problem gambling in Macau.

“Although they [IAS] have invested a lot of money, the effectiveness can hardly be seen because the quality of the programs or activities was insufficient and the service targets were not properly chosen,” he explained.

Public housing ‘very well planned’

According to the youth worker, around 80 percent of the population lived in public housing in Singapore.

The visit to the Housing Development Board had impressed the Macau delegation, which deemed the comprehensive planning of public housing a valuable role model for the Macau Government.

The supporting facilities, transport and surrounding green areas are “very well planned” for the public housing projects in Singapore, Kou said. “It is at present impossible in Macau since it is still in the stage where the Government is solving the subsidence in Mong Há by reconstructing the public housing complex there.”

In the future when public housing starts to build in Seac Pai Van, Kou said he hoped that the Macau Government can put more effort into recreational facilities, green areas and transport, “so that people don’t have to go to Taipa or Macau to look for facilities or services they need”.

Management and maintenance of public housing, he added, is also being carried out very well in Singapore, which is “very much worth considering” by Macau’s Housing Bureau.

Yet, Kou said the system of how Singaporeans obtain public housing is not likely to be applicable in Macau, due to the significant amount of contribution a citizen has to make every month to the Provident Fund.

“In Singapore, an employee is required to contribute 20 percent of the monthly income to the Provident Fund and the employer also needs to contribute an amount equivalent to 15 percent of the employee’s income to the employee’s Provident Fund account,” Kou told the MDT.

“If a Singaporean makes USD 10,000 a month, that means he can only pocket USD 8,000 and his employer also has to take out USD 1,500 in addition to the USD 10,000 salary every month,” he explained.

The money accumulated in the Provident Fund will be used for buying public housing in the future.

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