How much money does the Singapore government make from the lotteries run by Singapore Pools and its other bookmaking activities?
Today reports that Singapore Pools will give S$164.8 million to charity over the next three years. The money will be put into the Tote Board Social Service Fund for the National Council of Social Service to use.
What the report doesn't say is how much money Singapore Pools collects from the punters every week.
Singapore Pools and the Singapore Turf Club are both owned by the Tote Board, a statutory board under the Finance Ministry.
That puts the government in the same business as the casinos, from which it is trying to protect Singaporeans.
The Straits Times parrots the government line about the need to "ringfence" the casinos so Singaporeans may not be tempted into them; they should lure the tourists instead.
Is it right to encourage tourists to go where you don't want your own citizens to go?
About the money, I checked the Singapore Pools and Tote Board websites to see the amount of revenue collected from the punters. No dice.
Genting and Sands, the two new casino – sorry, integrated resort – operators, on the other hand, report their earnings.
"The government expects the two projects will create about 35,000 new jobs and add up to 1 percentage point to gross domestic product growth," the New York Times reported in February.
How much has Singapore Pools contributed to the economy?
Its website does not say how many people it employs. But it can't possibly create as many jobs and provide the same economic boost as the two integrated resorts because, unlike them, it runs only betting shops, not hotels and convention centres.
And the Singapore Pools betting shops are ubiquitous.
Its website says it operates about 80 branches and over 200 authorized outlets, open seven days a week, and holds more than 250 draws a year. Besides running lottery games such as Toto, 4D and the Singapore Sweep, it also accepts bets on football matches, F1 motor racing and horse racing.
And look at all the trouble it takes to make betting convenient.
It accepts bets on the phone and runs one of the most popular websites in Singapore. The website sometimes draws more visitors than Channel NewsAsia and the Straits Times, according to this Google Trends chart.
The Pools site carries all the sports statistics you need to make an informed decision.
If that's not promoting betting, what is?
Singapore Pools, its website says, was set up "to provide a legal avenue for betting in Singapore to counter illegal betting syndicates, and to channel surplus earnings to benefit the community".
So, is the S$164.8 million it will give to charity over the next three years its projected surplus earnings?
What is its annual revenue?
I am asking because its website says it's a member of the World Lottery Association and gives the total revenue of the association members.
It says: "The WLA is a global professional association of state lottery and gaming organizations from 76 countries and five continents, with total member revenues in excess of US$180 billion."
What it doesn't disclose is its own revenue – its own share of that more than US$180 billion pie.