SINGAPORE, Dec 24 — The World Cup fever is over for most, but for some young punters who had sunk and lost up to S$15,000 (RM49,115) into betting during the month-long football fiesta, the pain from their losses still linger.

This was the case for 30-year-old Melvyn (not his real name), who lost an estimated over S$10,000 in savings, after betting on World Cup matches mostly through illegal bookie sites. This made up about three to five months of his salary.

“I bet on almost all the matches, initially starting with S$20 to S$30 bets, but ended up with S$3,000 to S$5,000 bets per game,” he told TODAY on condition of anonymity.


He said that he had hoped to make some money out of the World Cup bets, but soon realised that the hole left by his losses was “getting too big to fill”. This led him to betting bigger and bigger amounts in hopes of getting his money back or at least break even, but this never materialised.

He said that after each loss, he told himself that he will “never bet again” but went back on this promise during the next game, when the hope of winning his money back proved too tempting.

“I’m not even much of a football fan, I only bet on World Cups usually for a sense of participation and thrill,” rued Melvyn, who works in the nightlife sector. He has not told his family about his losses as he can still shoulder them.


“But I would be lying if I said it didn’t sting, it still hurts quite badly,” he said.

Stories like Melvyn’s are not uncommon, given the high profile of the once-in-four-years tournament leading many punters betting through both legal and illegal gambling sites in hopes of raking in winnings.

In Singapore, Singapore Pools is the only operator licensed to provide lotteries and sports betting services, and any other sports betting sites are illegal here.

A research article published by the Nanyang Technological University this year shows that gambling is “widely accepted in Singapore”, with the average Singaporean losing about US$650 (RM3,8800) through gambling in 2016, ranking just second in the world after Australia in gambling loss per capita.

In 2021, it was also reported by the National Council on Problem Gambling (NCPG) that the average problem gambler in Singapore spent about US$900 per year on gambling activities.

TODAY reached out to Singapore Pools on the total amount that was gambled and the number of bets made during this World Cup, but the operator said that such information is of commercial confidence.

“However, World Cup 2022, being the first major global sporting event since the pandemic, has garnered interest from sporting fans and the bets collected are in line with the interest,” a Singapore Pools spokesperson said.

‘Only bet with what you don’t need’, say punters

Other punters that TODAY reached out to said that whether one wins or loses, it is always important to gamble with money one is ready to lose.

For 28-year-old engineer David (not his real name), he had consistently bet during major tournaments such as the World Cup as he saw them as opportunities to make a quick buck.

However, his luck run out during this World Cup, with estimated losses of between S$10,000 and S$15,000.

David said that he had betted between S$200 and S$1,000 for each match, but almost always ended up losing.

He had also betted in the previous World Cup in 2018, but was placing bets about 10 times bigger this time round partly because he was only a student back then with no income.

Another reason he had betted more this time was because of the convenience of betting through illegal online sites, which he said he made about half his bets on.

He said that the bets that he can make on these sites are more diverse, including different variations such as the number of corner kicks and number of yellow cards in a match, for example, punts which Singapore Pools does not offer.

“These third-party sites need improvements to retain their customers, while Singapore Pools’ selection is always limited,” he said.

However, he added that he had heard of third-party sites running away with customers’ money, and so he will still go to Singapore Pools for bigger bets.

In the lead-up to the World Cup, authorities here said they would step up efforts against unlawful and problem gambling during the tournament.

They warned that anyone found guilty of conducting unlawful gambling faces a fine of up to S$500,000 and jail of up to seven years. Repeat offenders face a fine of up to S$700,000 and imprisonment of up to 10 years.

Unlike David and Melvyn, one punter who had luck on his side was social media content creator Nicholas Teo.

The 27-year-old regularly posts about his World Cup betting experiences on his social media channels.

He told TODAY that he had a net win of about S$2,000 from betting on nearly every match.

“I only bet amounts I was okay with losing (and) I think people should only bet something that they don’t need,” said Teo, who only bets legally. “So whether I won or lost really didn’t affect me much.”

While he did win some money, he said that the swings in wins and losses is not for the faint of heart.

In a recent TikTok post, he detailed how he had betted more than S$2,000 on the World Cup final. At one point, he was losing S$2,100, but at the end of the match, he had won S$1,480.

He said that he produces content about sports betting because he wanted to show “how crazy and insane gambling is” and was trying to show viewers the inherent risks that come with making punts.

More young punters seeking help for problem gambling, says therapist

While sports betting during the World Cup is not uncommon, one therapist said that she has seen more of her younger clients betting during this World Cup.

Addictions therapist Juliana Pang from the Visions by Promises, the addiction treatment arm of Promises Healthcare, said that the widespread access to betting, especially with online platforms and real-time betting, has made it easier for these young people to make bets.

While it is not harmful to bet within one’s means, the line is crossed when one begins to bet with money that is set aside for living expenses, or bet with borrowed money, she said.

She added that increasing the bet amounts when losing, such as what Melvyn had done, is “not an effective strategy”.

“In events where the rewards are variable, the brain is conditioned to keep seeking the reward, and hence one would continue betting until they get a win,” she said.

She added that the detrimental effects of gambling, other than just monetary losses, could include conflicts with loved ones, loss of time and focus on healthy revenue-earning activities, loss of energy, low moods and anxiety over losses due to mounting debts.

“At its worst, gamblers have been known to be suicidal when they see no way out of their debts and pressure from money lenders,” she said.

She added that the first step problem gamblers can take is to seek help from a qualified addictions therapist, who may recommend either a harm reduction approach to cut down on gambling behaviour or an abstinence approach with a complete stop on all gambling activities.

She added that she also helps those who are recovering from gambling addictions understand that any form of addiction is a “disease of the brain”.

“By understanding the science behind the illness and the biological, psychological and social factors that contribute towards the progression of the illness, many start to realise that they are trapped in a compulsive pattern of behaviours,” she said.

A therapist may also help to develop a “relapse prevention plan” with strategies to address triggers which compel clients to return to gambling.

In a press release by NPCG released last month before the World Cup, it encouraged those who gamble excessively to step forward and speak with someone at NCPG Helpline (1800-6-668-668) or Webchat ( — TODAY