S'pore blocks hundreds of gambling websites

S'pore blocks hundreds of gambling websites
Among websites blocked yesterday were bet365 (above) and 888.com. The blocks are part of a new raft of measures to curb unlicensed online gambling.

Singapore began blocking hundreds of gambling websites yesterday, and caught in the noose were the likes of bet365, Ladbrokes and 888.com.

Attempts to access these sites were met with the message that they contained prohibited material. A link to the Media Development Authority's page was also provided.

The blocks are part of a new raft of measures to curb unlicensed online gambling that kicked in yesterday.

The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) said "several hundred" websites have been blocked, and it will regularly review the list, which has been sent to Internet service providers here.

But several betting firms' mobile websites, which are optimised for use on phones and tablets, were still accessible yesterday.

MHA, however, said any attempt to make payments to these betting firms will be blocked.

A Gambling Regulatory Unit, which was set up in 2013, will monitor the websites and related payment transactions.

It will get data from research firms that track the websites' visitor statistics. It will also work with gambling regulators in other jurisdictions, such as France, to share and learn from "best practices", said the MHA spokesman.

Under the Remote Gambling Act which was passed in October last year, unlicensed online and phone gambling is an offence. Gamblers may get up to six months in jail or a $5,000 fine. Those guilty of luring people under 21 face stiffer penalties.

There is also a ban on online gambling advertisements. Internet service providers and financial institutions that fail to abide by a blocking order will face punishment.

Ms Deborah Queck, manager of Blessed Grace Social Services, which runs a recovery centre for gamblers, said: "It's good news that the sites are now banned, it sets some boundaries for the young ones. Some of them accidentally click on them and end up getting hooked."

Singapore Pools, which offers phone betting, has a grace period of six months to apply for an exemption. Its spokesman said it plans to apply within that period, but is unable to give more details.

limyihan@sph.com.sg


This article was first published on February 3, 2015.
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