VULNERABLE ELDERLY WITH GAMBLING PREDISPOSITIONS PURCHASING CHEAP MEMBERSHIP INTO PRIVATE CLUBS WITH JACKPOT MACHINES

Murali Pillai
2 min readFeb 7, 2024

I learnt about a sad case involving a senior living in Bukit Batok. She had a gambling problem. She joined a social club to gain access to the gaming machines there. Within 2 weeks, she lost several tens of thousands of dollars. Only later, her children got to know of the matter and used the process to ban her from visiting such gaming sites. Concerned about the easy access such people have to clubs with gaming machines, I requested the Minister for Home Affairs to look into the matter. I highlighted the danger of elderly individuals with gambling issues being potentially exploited, through inexpensive club memberships, for them to gain access jackpot machines. Additionally, I’ve suggested that the Gambling Regulatory Authority regularly audit private clubs with jackpot machines to uphold responsible gaming standards. My parliamentary question and Minister Shanmugam’s response are set out below.

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Mr Murali Pillai asked the Minister for Home Affairs (a) whether the Gambling Regulatory Authority (GRA) can consider investigating cases of vulnerable elderly persons with gambling predispositions being allowed to purchase relatively cheap membership into private clubs purely with a view to gain access to the jackpot machines there; and (b) whether GRA can consider regularly auditing and assessing the responsible gaming standards of private clubs with jackpot machines.

Mr K Shanmugam: Under the Gambling Control Act, a club that wishes to operate a gaming machine room, including a room with jackpot machines, is required to obtain a licence from the Gambling Regulatory Authority (GRA).

Clubs decide on the qualifying criteria of their memberships through their own rules and by-laws. GRA does not regulate the membership criteria.

Notwithstanding, GRA exercises regulatory oversight of the gambling activities, and conducts onsite inspections to ensure compliance with its requirements.

For instance, persons who do not have a membership term of at least one year are not allowed to enter the gaming machine room. Gaming machine room operators are also required to prominently display responsible gambling materials and the National Council on Problem Gambling’s helpline in the gaming machine room, and render assistance to individuals who show signs of problem gambling, or who enquire about self-exclusion.

In addition, financially vulnerable individuals are excluded by law from gaming machine rooms. These include undischarged bankrupts, individuals on Government social assistance and legal aid schemes, as well as tenants and occupiers of the HDB Public Rental Scheme. Individuals with self-exclusion, third party exclusion or family exclusion orders are also barred from gaming machine rooms.

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Murali Pillai

Member of Parliament, Bukit Batok SMC, Advisor to Bukit Batok SMC GROs.