Singapore poised to block all roads to unlicensed gambling websites

Singapore poised to block all roads to unlicensed gambling websites

From Monday, punters in Singapore will no longer be able to access a host of unlicensed online gambling sites.

That is when the new remote gambling law, which was passed last October to clamp down on unregulated online betting, takes effect, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) announced yesterday.

It is understood that the ministry has drawn up a list of online sites, including those for sports betting and casino games. Internet service providers will start blocking these sites from Feb 2.

The authorities, however, assured developers of online social games such as Candy Crush that the curbs will not impact them, as long as they do not include facilities which allow players to convert tokens into actual money or prizes in real life.

The online gambling industry here is estimated to have raked in some $500 million last year.

The Remote Gambling Act criminalises a host of remote gambling activities, which includes phone betting. Gamblers may get up to six months in jail or a $5,000 fine, with stiffer penalties for those guilty of luring people under 21.

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

MHA said those providing remote gambling services have had sufficient notice of the regulations.

Since the law was passed, major foreign online gambling sites such as bet365.com have already asked Singapore customers to close their accounts. At least three banks here - DBS, OCBC and UOB - have already blocked payments to such sites.

The new law has raised concerns that social games would be hit. But the Media Development Authority said legitimate social media gaming would not be impeded.

Leader-boards which reward top players, or tournaments where players can win prizes or money in real life, will also be allowed, as long as these are not casino-style games.

The Act allows not-for-profit operators here to apply for a remote-gambling licence, with the takings going to social causes. But MHA said it has not received any applications yet.

Lottery operator Singapore Pools said yesterday that it was waiting for more details.

Associate Professor Lim Yee Fen of the Nanyang Business School said the curbs are a timely response. "Those who have been banned from casinos are likely to go online to gamble."

limyihan@sph.com.sg


This article was first published on Jan 29, 2015.
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