Singapore’s parliament on Tuesday passed a bill barring online gambling in the city-state, although with exemptions.
Online casino-style games and poker will not be allowed under the new Remote Gambling Bill. The ban won’t affect social and video games as long as in-game credits can’t be converted to cash.
The bill criminalises gambling via the Internet, telephone or any other platform that facilitates communication between gamblers and gambling promoters. It also imposes measures blocking access to websites, advertisements and payment transactions.
The new law is expected to take effect next year, local media quoted the Ministry of Home Affairs as saying.
Last month, Singapore-based media outlet Channel NewsAsia said its research indicated there are currently websites that specifically target the Singapore market, with some even offering payment processing via local banks.
The bill however allows for a limited form of online gambling in the city-state. Local media quoted Singapore’s Second Minister for Home Affairs S. Iswaran as saying that a regulated exempt operator could “mitigate concerns” that the bill would drive remote gambling activities underground.
Applicants that wish to apply for an online gambling licence have to meet strict criteria: be based in Singapore, be a not-for-profit firm, contribute to social causes, and have a good compliance track record.
State-owned lottery company Singapore Pools (P) Ltd and the city’s licensed horse racing provider, the Singapore Turf Club, which both offer telephone betting services, are likely to apply for exemptions under those provisions, reported local media when the bill was first introduced in early September.
The bill states that registered users would have to meet a minimum age requirement and would not be allowed to bet on credit. A person already under the casino self-exclusion list would be barred, local media reported.
The bill was met with concern by a few lawmakers, who said that the exemption could encourage remote gambling and called for a review of the suggested legislation.
Studies by Singapore’s National Council on Problem Gambling suggested that about a third of those who engage in online gambling tend to gamble longer, spend more than they had planned, and gamble more frequently, reported Channel NewsAsia.
The government launched in May a new centralised self-exclusion scheme which allows Singapore residents voluntarily to exclude themselves from both casino and non-casino gambling venues, via an online application.
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”With this [new mobile phone] application, clients can have the real-time tracking of their account balance, in whichever of our [club] venues they play”
Vice president of information technology at junket investor Suncity Group