TOC: Well referring to an article that you wrote in 2004, you wrote about the casinos and you wrote that you “support the idea of a casino” and that “it does not matter that some Singaporeans will eventually gamble in these casino”. You also wrote that, “It is not the job of the government to stop Singaporeans from gambling in those casinos” Can you explain what you really meant?
TKL: I think I must explain more clearly because I think there is some misperception. Firstly what is gambling? Now my family goes to my mother who is 87 years old and she likes to play mahjong. And around the mah-jong table they do have some money passed. Is that gambling? I don’t think so. If you are going to play mah-jong if you are going to have some stake, it’s more fun. I don’t consider that gambling. Similarly there are many people who go to buy- line up to buy TOTO. It’s just a way to pass the week to look forward to something. So long as the amount of money that you spend is the same money that you would spend on entertainment. Some people spend 200-300 dollars to watch one show. Other people spend that money to buy 4D or TOTO. So gambling in small amounts of money is alright. Even if you have to go to the casino, because there are things in the casino – so long as you bet with money that you set aside for this.
Now when it becomes big scale, when you bet money you cannot afford to lose, of course then you must stop it. In fact, I also said that the biggest gamble is not the casino. I said it was the stock market and the currencies. Big sums of money. So therefore we must look up on the question of gambling in a more rational way. Of course there are some gambling that are bad, when people over gamble. When they gamble on owing money. So I also said that there should be, you should ban lending of money for gambling. That’s bad. Gambling on credit is wrong. So I think of course it seems that the casino has become a bit worse than I expected. That means more people gamble large sums that they should not. We must look at this problem. But I still come back on the original premise that so long as you gamble small sums, it’s a form of entertainment.
TOC: Surely, no doubt the casino has reaped economic beneﬁts, but wouldn’t the government have foreseen the social problems that would have arisen from the casinos?
TKL: Ok now the first is the question to foresee, it is very hard to foresee. But it’s easier to act to find the problem. Which you don’t have to foresee because there are many unexpected things but when a problem arises you must act. And since now that I realize that more people are gambling, I must take action to address this issue.
Read the transcript of the exclusive interview HERE.