Impact Of Casino Gambling On Crime In Singapore

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27th Apr 2017 Tourism Reference this


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Gambling is an illegal activity in Singapore. Under the Singapore law, only those with licenses such as, Singapore Pools and The Singapore Turf Club are legally to offer gambling to the public. Sport betting, horseracing, and lottery wagers are only allow for persons of age 21 and above. In 2006, Singapore government decided to allow two new Integrated Resorts, the Marina Bay Sand and Resorts World Sentosa with casinos. The government believes that these two Integrated Resorts would provide a strong boost to the economy and job opportunity to the country. The decision by the Singapore government to set up two integrated resorts with casinos has stirred up some debate among its citizens. Some people think that having casinos could mean more people gambling and getting themselves or their families involved in trouble such as crime. In addition, social problems like bankruptcy, divorce, suicide, income loss and problem gambling may also be increased after a casino was introduced in Singapore.

Singapore has just officially opened its two casinos in February and April 2010. The government has enhanced the regulation of casino gambling in order to mitigate the negative effects of gambling. The new casino gambling laws has provided a number of social safeguards to prevent Singapore citizens and permanent residents from becoming problem gamblers. These social safeguards include entry levies, credit and loss limits, self-exclusion order and protection of minors (MCYS 2005).


According to The Straits Times (2004), Singapore has become No.3 in the world in terms of gambling per capital without a casino. Many Singaporean like to travel to Genting Highland (Malaysia) and gamble at its casino. Some on them would also go on Star Cruise to try out their luck on the limited number of slots and gambling tables. Gambling is not new to the average Singaporean but having a casino is a relatively new phenomenon in Singapore. Hence, this proposed research will focus on the relationship between casinos and crime in Singapore. The research will also assess the quality of life before and after the casinos opened in Singapore, and measure the effectiveness of social safeguards. A survey will be conducted to determine the public perceptions of changes in crime and the quality of life that may have accompanied the advent of casinos. In addition, qualitative data reflecting quality of life will be gathered from interviews of community leaders, police officers, businesspersons and social service providers. Finally, recommendations for actions to help to combat casino gambling-related crime will also be discussed in the research. The followings are some hypotheses (H) that I will be investigate in this research:

H1. Casinos gambling increase crime.

H2. Casinos gambling have negative effects on quality of life.

H3. Higher casino levy will not be more effective in deterring problem gamblers.

Literature Review

Casinos are often associated with criminal activity. A number of studies in the United States and Canada that have analyzed the relationship between casino gambling and crime have yield contradictory and inconclusive results. Grinols wrote the article: Casino gambling causes crime in 2000 and he has pointed out that the evidence in his research has shown that casino gambling causes significant increases in crime. According to the article, a number of pathological gamblers have lost control over their gambling behavior, personal lives and job. They relied on other to provide money to relieve a desperate financial situation caused by gambling. Moreover, some of them got themselves involved in illegal activities. One of study gamblers in treatment found that 62 percent committed crimes because of their gambling and nearly 400 members of Gamblers anonymous showed that 57 percent admitted stealing to finance their gambling (E.L.Grinols 2000). The study proves that casino gambling related to crime.

In the same year, Grinols conducted a research (Casinos, Crime and Community Costs, June 2000) with Professor David Mustard, Cynthia Hunt Dilley to examine crime statistics for all 3,165 counties in the United States from 1977 to 1996. They looked at local crime rates before and after casinos opened. The data shows that crime rate increased after the casino had begun operation in the majority of the casino counties. However, the data also indicate that there was no significant rise in crime rates for the first three years after casino opened and the crime rates began to rise in casino counties after three years. The study concludes that the crime rate in the casino counties is higher than counties without casino. Las Vegas, for example, the crime rate is higher than other counties.

This study has certain limitations that need to be taken into account when considering its contribution. There are many strengths and limitations of official statistics (crime statistics). They offer the opportunity to identify trends in crime overtime as well as look at more than just the crime committed by problem and pathological gamblers. However, these data only show the rate of recorded crimes and they may not be an accurate reflection to the actual crime being committed in society. In addition, researcher may also find it difficult to analyze the share of crime related to casinos from the mass of other crime that occurs all the time. It is difficult to prove that the advent of casino has the direct effects on crime. Thus, researchers have to get various sources in order to prove the validity and reliability of their study.

Grinols and Mustard did another the study in February 2006 on “Casinos, Crime, and Community Costs”. The study is a remarkable contribution to the gambling literature. The study provide as detailed discussion of theoretical connection between casinos and crime. The authors discuss two potential factors through which casinos may reduce crime. First, if casinos provide labor market for low-skilled workers, crime may fall. Second, economic growth effects attributable to casino gambling that could reduce crime.

On the other hand, they also discuss the five potential negative effects of casinos on crime. First, casinos drain the local economy of resources and may harm economic development. Second, casinos may contribute to an increased crime payoff. Third, casinos may increase the number of pathological gamblers, and this can lead to more crime. Fourth, casinos may also attract criminal activities, resulting in more crime. Finally, casinos may induce a change in local population, towards one more apt to commit crimes. According to the result of the study, casino gambling has generated externality costs, and crime is one of the biggest components of these social costs. Grinols and Mustard believe that the social costs of casinos are greater than benefits.

Joseph Friedman, Simon Hakim and J. Weinblatt did a study in 1989 on “Casino gambling as ‘growth pole’ strategy and its effect on crime”. They have found that casinos had increased the level of crime in Atlantic City. Another study, done in 1989 by Simon Hakim, Andrew J. Buck and Uriel Spiegel, centered on Atlantic City and 64 communities in surrounding area. They assume that casinos in an areas increase the crime rate in that area. Based on their (Hakim and Buck) theory, the opening of a new public area such as casino will attract attention that is more public and create opportunities for criminal.

However, Eadington (1996) argues that the introduction of theme parks or resorts into an area could have similar negative effects as do casinos on the area’s crime. For example, the crime rate has been increased after the Mall of America (super-regional shopping mall) opened in Bloomington, Minnesota (R.Garcia, & L. Nicholls 1995). Hence, Eadington (1995, p7) has concluded that “there is no compelling evidence that crime rates in cities with casinos are much different than in cities with tourist attractions in general”. His argument is similar to Hakim and Buck’s theory but he suggest that the crime rate increased is not due to the casino per se.

Scott T. Horn, a New York civil appeals lawyer disagrees with Hakim and Buck’s theory. He did a study on “Casinos and Crime: Don’t Bet On it” in 1997, which concluded that there is probably no relationship between casinos gambling and total crime rate. To overcome the weaknesses of the Hakim-Buck model, Scott develop a model to predict the casino gambling on crime rate by using data from crime statistics and FBI’s Crime Report. According to his theory, cities with significant number of casinos, the increase in casinos, which would in turn increase in crime rate, would have little impacts on overall crime rates. This is because there has been a decline in the novelty effect. The results and conclusion of the study differed from the studies that I have mentioned earlier. Horn (1997, p4) concludes that, “the effect of casinos on crime will decrease at a decreasing rate with each additional casino opened in any given region”. Las Vegas has over 250 casinos, Macau has 28, Singapore has two now. Based on Horn’s theory, the effect of casinos on crime rate in Singapore would be more significant than Las Vegas or Macau when a casino first open in Singapore. However, the crime rate would decrease with the opening of second or even the third casino.

Few studies have also examined the effects of casinos on crime. Those studies that have analyzed the relationship between casino gambling and crime have yielded contradictory results. Most of them are using vague references to survey or fanciful figures to support their claims. U.S News & World Report perform a “computer analysis” and shows that town with casinos have experienced a rise in crime at the same time it was dropping for the nation as a whole (S.T.Horn 1997). However, in terms of validity, the present result may not be accurate and reasonable reliable because the report never mentioned on how the computer analyzed the data.

There are many studies focus on the relationship between casino gambling and crime in the United States, only a handful of studies have examined the casino gambling in Asia. Macau is openly known as a casino state in Asia. It has more than 30 casinos and 4,600 gaming tables, which has overtaken Las Vegas in terms of gaming revenue (China Daily, 2009). However, the total number of crime in this island city has increased from 4,717 in 1987 to 8,576 in 1996 over the last decade. Crime rate per capita has increased from 14.11 per 1,000 people in 1987 to 20.62 per 1,000 people in 1996 (S.H. Lo 2005). This has created a serious social problems directly affect the residents’ daily life. Nevertheless, the crime statistics may not be able to reflect the reality as some people may not report the crime because of the complicated procedures and time wasted.

Despite the proliferation of legalized casino gambling in Asia, Europe and United States, it remains controversial with regard to both its effect on crime as well as its effects on the diverse socio-economic aspects of the community. According to a study (H. Lesieur 1996) on gambling and crime, a heavy concentration of casinos in an area is associated with tourism-related crime and some communities with casinos have little or no measurable crime impact. The author also claims that the pathological gamblers may commit crimes to finance their gambling (H. Lesieur 1996). Yet, the UCR (Uniform Crime Reporting Survey) measures are not precise enough to gauge all changes in the incidence of crime.

Casino is often used as a panacea for economic ills. Casino gambling in the United States has provided new capital investments, jobs and some degree of economic vitality to areas that were in need of economic revitalization (B.G. Stitt, & M. Nicholas 2000). On the other hand, casinos do change peoples’ pattern of spending and saving. For example, in 1992, a study has reported that Americans spent more on legal gambling than on other leisure activities such as reading or watching movies (S.Simurda 1994). In addition, the impact of casinos on a community quality of life is difficult to gauge. For example, casinos bring tourists and entertainment but other recreational amenities (theaters, karaoke lounges, and restaurants) bring traffic, noise and a change in community’s traditional social and cultural environment. Whether the change is in positive or negative, it all depends on the individual and his or her view of gambling, and the changes it brings to a community. Ultimately, the evaluation of casinos’ impact on a country may well depend on the country’s pre-casino well being, as well as each individual’s assessment of the benefit and detriments that casinos bring to the country, and to each individual’s lifestyle (B.G. Stitt, & M. Nicholas 2000).

Methodology and Data Collection

In order to produce a more comprehensive understanding of the study, a multi-method approach will be applied to examine the immediate effects of the casino gambling on crime, quality of life, economic development, and social costs. To analyze these issues, I have chosen Singapore where casino gambling has recently been introduced. Information will be obtaining by conducting a survey and a series of in-depth interviews with selected participants. I will use both quantitative and qualitative data to analyze the various short terms impacts that the introduction of casino gambling may have on Singapore. The following types of information will be gathered:

1. Obtaining the crime statistic from Singapore Police Force (SPF)

2. Conducting a public opinion survey

3. Gathering the data on the crime and quality of life by interviewing community leaders (Member of Parliament), police officers, businesspersons, problem gamblers, and social service providers

4. Gathering data on local quality of life from public sources (e.g., suicide data from Registry of Births and Deaths, Singapore Immigration and Registration; bankruptcy statistic from Singapore Ministry of Law; divorce rate from The State of the Family in Singapore Report)

5. Collecting data on the economic impacts of casino gambling from public data resource such as Statistic Singapore and Singapore Ministry of Manpower

Participants need to meet two criteria in order to be eligible to take part in the survey. First, the participant must be at least 21 years of age. Second, the participant must have been live in Singapore for at least 5 years. Furthermore, researchers need to be aware of the ethical issues when conducting a survey and interview. All the personal information of the research participants should be kept strictly confidential.

Data on the crime rate

Crime statistics can be obtained from SPF. The crime rate is based on the total population that comprises Singapore residents and foreigners staying in Singapore for at least one year. Crime classes refer to the six classes of Crimes Against Persons, Violent Property Crimes, Housebreaking and Related Crimes, Theft and Related Crimes, Commercial Crimes, and Miscellaneous Crimes. With the opening of two casinos in Singapore, an elite police department has been set up to investigate casino-related crime. This department would be able to provide an accurate number of crimes attributable to casinos. Casino-related crimes will be distinguished from the overall criminal activities.

Casinos attract a large number of people, many of whom may be visitors from other countries. Therefore, crime rates that adjusted by the local population rather than the population at risk (local population plus visitors) will bias crime rate upward. To avoid this bias, population at risk will be controlled by gathering data on the number of foreign casino visitors and these data are routinely collected by the casinos. I will conduct the interviews with police officer in order to know more about latest crime trend and increase police resources regarding casino gambling.

Economic factors must be considered when examining the relationship between casino gambling. This is because economic factors can influence crime rates in a country. According to the economic approach to crime, opportunity cost is relative to the increased criminal activity (G.S. Becker 2001). Difference in opportunities people face such as unemployment rate and median household income are the primary determinant of committing a crime. For example, higher unemployment rate and lower median incomes are expected to be positively correlated with criminal activity because the opportunity costs of incarceration are lower. Similarly, crime rates are expected to be higher as the proportion of the population below the poverty line increases or during economic downturns (B.G. Stitt, & M. Nicholas 2000).

Public Opinion Survey

A public opinion survey will be conducted and the survey responses will be completely anonymous and voluntarily. The data collected will contain the perception data and opinion. In order to archive reliable results, 250 of randomly selected participants (Citizens and permanent residents) will be involved in the survey. This survey includes questions regarding quality of life in Singapore. For example, respondents will be asked to evaluate the impact of casino gambling have on their lives in particular, have they perceived the changes in crime, do they feel there is an increase in employment options, financial well being, and recreational opportunity, do they think having casinos is good or bad to the country, etc. These are some of the important questions that provide the information that will not likely show up in an examination of crime statistics.

The survey will be designed to ask questions in three general areas. The first area of the survey will include the demographic information such as age, marital status, gender, race, education background, and the income of the participant. The second area will ask opinion of participants on the impact of the existence casinos on Singapore. The third area, participants will be asked the questions regarding gambling behavior (e.g., “Have the participant ever been to the casino? “How many times do they go in a month”? “How much do they spend gambling on average?”) .

Data on Quality of life and Social Problem

Social problems such as family dysfunction, divorce, spouse abuse, suicide, and bankruptcy often mentioned when discussing the impact of casino gambling. These are important determinants of the social costs of casino gambling. Quantitative information on these variables can be obtained from the gambling related organizations and government departments. These include:

National Council on Problem Gambling (NCPG):

Registry of Births & Deaths Citizen Services Centre, Immigration Checkpoint Authority (ICA):

Ministry of Law:

State of Families in Singapore Report:

Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports:

The number of divorce, suicide and spouses abuse is available on the website mentioned above. However, it is difficult to know the portion of those caused by gambling related problems. Therefore, personal interviews with counselors and social workers provide a great opportunity for me to evaluate the benefit and costs of casino gambling. In addition, the effectiveness of social safeguards can be measured through the survey and interviews. Personal phone interviews with the pathological and problem gamblers enable me to explore their perspectives on casino gambling and social safeguards, as well as to understand the effects on the gamblers’ family and society. The effectiveness of social safeguards can also be measured by gathering the data from the two casinos, which provide the number of visitors (Citizens and permanents residents).

Data on the Economic Impact of Casino Gambling

The qualitative information will be gathered to augment information that obtained from the crime statistic and the public opinion survey. The economic impacts of casino gambling are tangible and quantifiable. Data of the positive and negative impacts of casino gambling on tax revenue, tourism industry, other business (e.g., movie theaters, pub, karaoke lounges, restaurants and retail shops), employment, wages, the number of people on welfare and property values can be obtained from public records (e.g., court records, police records, criminal records and criminal history, arrest records), Statistic Singapore, government departments. (e.g., Singapore Tourism Board and Ministry of Manpower). The chambers of commerce, public officials and local businesses are valuable sources of information. I can gather these data from personal or phone interviews with them. Social benefits are important consideration when examining casino gambling. Questions will be focus on the positive or negative impacts of casinos to the country’s economic development such as infrastructure improvement, increased tax revenue and police resources. Tourism development and improvement of infrastructures are some benefits that casino gambling may provide. This type of information may not available publicly but is readily available by speaking with officials in the chamber of commerce or community leaders.

Casino gambling may increase or decrease welfare rolls. On one hand, casinos may provide job and reduce welfare rolls. On the other hand, problem gambling may lead to unemployment and an increase in welfare rolls. Similarly, casinos may boost the tourism industry or harm other businesses if potential customers spend their money on casino gambling. The perceptions and opinion of public official and businesspersons will provide much valuable insight into these issues. Local media (e.g., journalist, reporters) can provide me additional information on the perceptions and the impacts of casino gambling. These data can be gathered from local newspaper or website.

Data Analysis

A mix of quantitative data and qualitative data will be gathered in this study. The analysis of quantitative survey data and statistic data is time consuming therefore analysis of quantitative data will be conducted first followed by the analysis of qualitative data.

Quantitative Data

The statistical data analysis will be used to examine the hypotheses in the proposed research. Data on crime rate, income level, bankruptcy, divorce, suicide, spouse abuse , and welfare rolls are the quantitative data that eligible for statistical analysis. All statistical approaches will involve before and after analysis to examine whether there have been a systematic change in crime and social disruption following the advent of casino gambling.

Least squares regression analysis will be also be employed in the study. It helps us to understand how to typical value of the dependent variable (crime) change when any of the independent variable (population changes, income levels) is varied.

Qualitative Data

Qualitative data is used to augment the quantitative data. Information that has been obtained from the interviews with community leaders, police officers, social service providers, chambers of commerce, businesspersons, and problem gamblers will be analyzed through qualitative data analysis. This is a process of moving the qualitative data that have been collected into some forms of interpretation and understanding of the interviewees, and situation we are investigating (N. Lewins, C.Taylor & G.R.Gibbs 2005).

The collected data will be presented in tabular format. For example, what the proportions of social workers feel that the casino has had a positive or negative impact on society?

What the proportion of community leaders, chambers of commerce, businesspersons, and police officers feel that the introduction of casinos has had positive or negative effects on society? Is the proportion of police officers that feel casino gambling has increased crime significant different from the social workers who feel that the casino has increased crime?

Time Scale & Plan

This research is planned to be completed in six months. First, I will study the relevant literature in order to deepen my understanding of the chosen research topic. I will also evaluate different research techniques and select the most suitable methodology for my research. The first month will end with completing a research proposal and a written literature review.

In the second and third month, I will examine the public and the key people opinions on the casino gambling by conducting a survey and interviews. I will review the questionnaire and interviews questions to ensure all the questions are relevant to the objective of my study. If the survey response rate was not good, I will send out more invitations to ensure I reach my target number. All primary and secondary data will be collected within these two months.

The forth month will be dedicated for data analysis. Once all data are collected, I will organize and interpret these raw data. I will spend the last two months to write my dissertation. The first draft of my dissertation will be finished in the fifth month. In the last month, I will do a final check and revision for my dissertation. The final dissertation will be completed at the time of submission.

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