Online betting will become legal in Singapore by November of this year. This announcement game in September by the Ministry of Home Affairs that the government has approved applications for two operators, Singapore Pools and Singapore Turf Club.
As these two operators have been “found suitable” to be exempted from the Remote Gambling Act (RGA), which came into force in February 2015 and will offer online gambling for existing games and lotteries. Singapore Pools will have lotteries for 4D and Toto, and online betting for football and Formula 1. Turf Club will offer horse-race betting online. Neither is allowed to offer new products without approval and casino games such as poker will not be available.
According to the ministry Singapore Turf Club applied for exemption certificates in May last year, while Singapore Pools did so in July 2015. It said their exemption certificates, valid for three years, were approved after they met a list of criteria that included operating on a not-for-profit basis, having their surpluses channelled to social and charitable causes, and keeping services free from “criminal influence”.
The operators will also have to implement social safeguards, such as ensuring only those aged 21 and above are able to open player accounts and that punters are not gambling on credit. They will also be required to set daily funding and gambling limits.
Also the operators will be subject to regular audits and inspections by the government. If either of the operators fail to comply with the conditions, they could be slapped with a penalty of up to S$1 million for each offence, as well as a potential revocation or suspension of its certificate.
Besides the financial penalties, MHA can also vary the exemption conditions, suspend and ultimately revoke the operators’ exemption status if they are unable to meet the conditions set. “These would be strong incentives for the management of the exempt operators to ensure that they comply with the conditions,” it said, adding that the operators’ not-for-profit status “reduces the incentive for them to pursue commercial benefits at the expense of their social responsibilities”.
Lately the Minister for Social and Family Development Tan Chuan-Jin said that allowing two local lottery operators to offer online betting will provide a regulated and safer platform for gamblers.
Remote gambling Act and MHA
The Remote Gambling Act prohibits all gambling activities online and over the phone, and since February, the ministry said “several hundred” online sites have been blocked. It said it has also blocked bank accounts and credit card transactions linked to remote gambling payments.
The Workers’ Party called on the Government to reject applications for online betting services. According to Worker’s Party should the Government approve their applications, Singapore Pools and STC will have 24/7 virtual betting outlets available in almost every home and mobile device.
An online petition against the legalisation of online gambling in Singapore is also making the rounds on social media at the time of writing had more than 12,000 signatures.
But the ministry said even with robust enforcement and application of blocking measures, it is not possible to completely eradicate unauthorized remote gambling in Singapore. For example, there continues to be Web traffic from Singapore to unauthorised remote gambling sites according to MHA.
It added that illegal gambling operations also still exist, as more than 120 people have been arrested for remote gambling offences since February 2015. While illegal football-betting activities are more commonly known, MHA said they are not the only products offered by the underground operators, illegal public lotteries being an example. Some of these operations may also be linked to transnational syndicates, it added.
The ministry added that the tightly-controlled exempt operator regime is intended to complement strong enforcement actions and blocking measures under the Act. “Other jurisdictions like Hong Kong and Norway also adopt a similar approach – allowing regulated operators to complement a general prohibition on remote gambling.”
MHA also explained that checks were required to determine the applicants are not-for-profit, that the applicants’ directors and key officers had not been convicted of offences in Singapore, and the applicants had a consistent record of compliance with legal and regulatory requirements, among other things.
MHA said the operators will be issued their exemption certificates once they launch their online gambling services over the next two months. The Singapore Turf Club plans to launch its online wagering platform, iTote, on Nov 15, which will allow account holders to place wagers on horse racing online. Singapore Pools will launch an enhanced Singapore Pools Account service on Oct 25 that will allow customers to place bets online.