Govt seeks to outlaw online gambling

SINGAPORE - Online gambling will soon be prohibited in Singapore, if the Remote Gambling Bill - tabled for the first time in Parliament yesterday - is passed.

Through a set of blocking measures - including website and payment blocking - the Government will outlaw and criminalise all remote gambling activities, defined as gambling through means such as the Internet, telephone or other kinds of communications technology.

The restrictions will apply as long as the gambling activity takes place in Singapore, regardless of where the bet is placed or where the remote gambling operator is located.

But the Bill provides for a tightly-controlled exemption regime.

A Singapore-based, not-for-profit entity can apply to be an exempted operator if it contributes to public, social or charitable purposes in Singapore, and has a good track record in complying with legal and regulatory requirements.

These exempted entities will be subject to strict operating conditions in the areas of social safeguards and responsible gambling, among others.

The Bill will also make it an offence to advertise and promote any form of remote gambling activity.

Stiff punishments, such as fines and/or jail time, are expected for those who flout the rules, including those who invite or help young people - aged below 21 - to gamble remotely, and those who hire young people in offering remote gambling services.

While Singapore has strict laws on gambling, its current laws do not expressly address remote gambling, as they were enacted before the Internet era.

Said the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) in a media statement: "In developing this Bill, MHA studied the laws and practices of other jurisdictions, such as Hong Kong, Norway and France. A six-week-long public consultation was held to seek feedback on the proposed framework. Consultations with grassroots, social services, religious and industry groups were also conducted, and their views have been considered.

"The objectives for regulating remote gambling are to maintain law and order, and protect young persons and other vulnerable persons from being harmed or exploited by remote gambling."

This article by The Business Times was published in MyPaper, a free, bilingual newspaper published by Singapore Press Holdings.