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NEWS UPDATES Asean Affairs             28  July 2011

Singapore casinos attract foreign workers

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For the first time, Singapore’s National Council on Problem Gambling (NCPG) has given figures on foreigners who have applied for self-exclusion orders from casinos since November when the application process for this group was simplified.

As of June, 12,660 foreigners applied to ban themselves from the casinos compared with about 50 last November.

According to the council's report, they account for 70 per cent of the 18,000 self-exclusion orders issued so far. Thirty-six percent of foreigners were aged between 21 and 40, while four in five applicants were men.

Between January and June, the number of self-exclusion orders issued to locals - Singaporeans and permanent residents - rose from 3,500 to 5,300 while family exclusion orders doubled to 613 from 297.

This is possibly due to changes made late last year that cut down the processing time for family exclusion orders from 6 weeks to 2 weeks on average.

There are over 1 million foreigners in Singapore, many of whom work in the construction and logistics industries. Many were asked to apply by their employers.

One such company is Eng Lee Engineering, which helped its 400 foreign workers apply for self-exclusion orders between January and March. Most of its workers are from China and India, and spokesperson Brenda Koh said it is a company policy for every worker to sign up. Those who do not comply will not have their work permits renewed.

"Whether they win or lose at the casino, gambling affects their motivation and concentration at work," she said, adding that workers caught flouting the ban will have to leave the company.

Another company is HEC Electrical and Construction, which helped its roughly 200 staff with the applications. The company, which deals with electrical installation, has also stepped up security at its warehouses after hearing of foreign workers frequenting the casinos. "Their pay is not high, so we don't want them to waste their hard-earned money," said Eliza Fong, the company's finance and human resource manager.

Not all take the same view. One company found its workers resistant to the idea of a ban, and said trust is more important. But it does keep a lookout for unusual behavior.

Yeow Kian Seng, managing director of Lucky Joint Construction, said: "I find that it's not necessary for our staff because their attendance is quite regular, except that we monitor those who go for more medical leave."

So far, Mr. Yeow said he has not run into any problems with his foreign workers. None of them has applied for self-exclusion, though the company will provide assistance if necessary.


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