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Overcoming the Odds: John’s Recovery from Gambling Addiction

Ban Luck, In-between. Chor Dai Di. Mahjong. Do any of these words sound familiar?

With every Chinese New Year, many homes welcoming the new year immerse themselves in the festive spirit, courting the favour or Lady Luck or the God of Fortune. During house visits, you can almost expect the “clacking” of mahjong tiles or boisterous shouts of “huat ah!”.

What’s more, 2024 will be the Year of the Wood Dragon, and the auspicious creature symbolises power, strength and also, good fortune!

If you want to hold on to your “hong baos” and avoid losing your new shirt because of a poor hand dealt to you, set a budget to limit what you can afford to lose before jumping into playing card games or mahjong with family and friends.

Did you know? A addiction to gambling often begins as casual fun that spiralled out of control.

The story of John and his first taste of casino fun

John was working as a Sales Director when he approached Credit Counselling Singapore. At the age of 45, he found himself drowning in debts of over $900,000 owed across 10 financial institutions.

“Due to my work, I had to entertain clients, including bringing them to visit the casino in Singapore. I also joined in to try my luck at playing roulette. At first, I was happy when I placed bets and won,” shared John, who was successful at what he did and earned a comfortable $300,000 a year.

“This led to me to visit the casino on my own during my spare time, placing bigger bets and hoping to win more money.”

“Sometimes I won. Most of the time, I lost. Unfortunately, the tally was that I accumulated a loss of over $1 million plus over a period of 4 to 5 years before I finally stopped.“

John’s gambling losses amounted to over $1 million over a period of 4 to 5 years.

Financing his gambling activities using credit and borrowed money

When John found himself short of funds, he tapped into his credit facilities.

“I had to withdraw funds from credit cards to cover my gambling losses and cannot afford to pay the interest, which quickly accumulated. I also borrowed from licensed moneylenders.”

According to psychologists, a paradox exists in the mindset of gamblers.
(The Straits Times, 15 November 2023, URL:

Gamblers “expect their problems to vanish with the next big win. Seeking help for gambling addiction is challenging, with individuals often prompted by family intervention rather than recognising the problem themselves.”

Turning to CCS for help

John shared his troubles with his family and some friends. “My friends could not help me financially, and my family managed to offer a little financial help.”

“I had to sell my HDB flat to reduce the debt owed. Regrettably, the bulk of the sale proceeds had to be returned to my CPF account, and the balance did not reduce my debt much.”

When John was at his rock-bottom, he read about CCS on social media and made the call to CCS.

CCS helped me to face the gravity of my situation. Being able to work out and be on the Debt Management Programme (DMP) has “helped me to stick to my budget each month so that I could repay in an orderly and manageable manner.”

With the guidance from his Credit Counsellor, John also took practical steps to address his gambling addiction.

“I attended gambling addition counselling and applied for casino exclusion order.”

The Gambler’s Fallacy

Gambling misconceptions, like expecting a machine to pay out soon or believing that you have a “foolproof” strategy, can lead to excessive spending and betting. Some also believe in myths, such as slot machines being “hot” or rituals ensuring wins. Some hold myths that loyalty club cards and casino personnel influence payouts, so they try to think of ways to bypass them.

Recognising these fallacies is crucial to avoid spiralling into debt caused by gambling.

The National Council on Problem Gambling (NCPG) manages exclusion programmes, and any  interested individuals can apply.

The voluntary Self-Exclusion programme allows individuals to voluntarily restrict their casino access for at least a year.

The Family Exclusion allows immediate family members (for example, spouse, children) to exclude a family member whom they are concerned may have a problem with their gambling behaviour.

The Road Ahead

Although John’s focus for now is on clearing his debt, his financial plans moving forward will focus on housing.

“Currently I do not have specific plans yet. Perhaps I will use the money (that I am saving up) as a down payment to buy a house since I am renting now.”

John has made good progress since the day he hit rock bottom and reached out to CCS, and we are happy to be journeying with him.

For more information on how to deal with gambling addiction, visit or reach out as follows:

    > NCPG helpline at 1800-6-668-668

    > NCPG webchat

Both the NCPG helpline and webchat are available daily from 8 am to 11 pm.

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Credit Counselling Singapore

Published 28 January 2024.