Singapore's National Council on Problem Gambling introduced its helpline in 2008 and added a web chat service in 2014. This initiative aimed to provide accessible healthcare support, disseminate essential information, and offer psychological assistance to those facing geographical and societal barriers. Understanding how these services are used can help organizations allocate resources more effectively.To gain insights into the usage of helpline and web chat services in Singapore, a retrospective study was conducted. The study analyzed 12 months of data from July 2015 to June 2016.
Over the study period, there were approximately 20,748 phone (92.42%) calls and 1,697 (7.58%) web chats. Among these, the majority of callers were gamblers themselves, accounting for 85.4% of phone calls and 73.3% of web chats. These findings highlight that those directly affected by gambling issues are more likely to seek help.
The demographics of the callers revealed interesting patterns. A significant proportion of gamblers were males (79.7%), while caregivers, who provide support to gamblers, were mostly females (64.9%). The study also identified various caregiver-gambler relationships, including spouses, siblings, parents, and children. Notably, different age groups were represented among both gamblers and caregivers, indicating that gambling issues impact people across a wide age range.
The majority of callers were Singaporeans or permanent residents, making up 67.1% of gamblers and a staggering 93.8% of caregivers. The ethnic composition of the callers mirrored Singapore's diverse population, with Chinese, Malay, Indian, and other ethnic groups represented. Interestingly, a substantial number of gamblers (79.9%) were full-time employees, indicating that gambling problems extend across various socio-economic backgrounds.
The analysis delved into the kinds of gambling activities that the callers engaged in. Table games, such as card games, emerged as the most popular primary gambling activity (67.6%). Within this category, local casinos were the preferred choice for a majority (55.8%) of the callers. Jackpot games followed closely (16.8%), with over half of the callers participating in these games in local casinos. The lottery (7.6%) also garnered attention, particularly TOTO (57.8%).
Analyzing call volume and response times shed light on the dynamics of engagement. On average, the helpline received 1,827 calls per month, with an impressive 95% of them being addressed. The distribution of call volume was relatively consistent, with higher call counts in February, March, and May. Interestingly, November, December, and June witnessed fewer calls, aligning with school holiday periods. Chat volume exhibited a similar trend, except for a lower number of chats in December. This suggests that the helpline is a valued resource that experiences variations in demand based on external factors.
Considering the timing of the calls, the data indicated that most callers (both gamblers and caregivers) preferred contacting the helpline during the day shift (8.30 am-6.00 pm). This trend might be influenced by the fact that a substantial percentage of callers were full-time employees. Web chat interactions displayed a more evenly distributed pattern, with calls being spread across all three shifts.