S'pore Pools may launch gambling website

Singapore Pools is looking to launch the first licensed gambling website to be based in the Republic.

It comes two weeks after the Government announced plans to limit access to remote gambling platforms such as the Internet and mobile gadgets.

Sources told The Straits Times the lottery operator is exploring ways to offer an online betting option to registered members, as part of plans to revamp its portal.

One proposal is upgrading the portal for existing members to allow those who have signed up with its phone-betting system to place bets online. Currently, these members can only log on to check their previous transactions and must call a hotline to place bets.

Adults who want to register as members must meet criteria, such as identity and credit history checks, before being allowed to set up an account.

A decision to go ahead or not is expected as early as the middle of next month, after the Government seeks public feedback on how best to tighten remote gambling laws.

Singapore Pools declined to confirm the plans, with a spokesman saying it would be "premature" to comment. But sources said its IT department began to design a members' website with an online betting function about two months ago, with the aim of finishing it for the World Cup in June next year.

It is understood that previous attempts to set up a betting website were rejected by the authorities.

But, this time round, Singapore Pools is said to have been in talks with government agencies, including the National Council on Problem Gambling.

The Government has been studying how best to limit access to remote gambling platforms.

Last month, Second Home Affairs Minister S. Iswaran said it will block gambling websites, payments to them and related advertising, possibly by early next year.

But there will be exceptions as the Government seeks public feedback on whether a limited form of gambling on some sites should be allowed.

This would be similar to the Hong Kong Jockey Club, which is the only online licensee offering both onsite and remote betting for horse racing, the lottery and football in the world.

Analysts estimate that Singapore's remote gambling market is worth more than $370 million, and is expected to grow by 6 per cent to 7 per cent annually.

A recent Ministry Of Home Affairs survey of 1,000 Internet users found almost three in 10 had gambled remotely at least once in the past year.

Mr Iswaran said a total ban may create problems with gambling going underground.

Mr Warwick Bartlett, chief executive of Britain-based Global Betting and Gaming Consultants, said of the Singapore Pools idea: "It is much better to have a legal entity that has passed the Government's stringent standards and a brand that punters trust."


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