The Singaporean government is taking steps to ban all forms of remote gambling, which includes placing wagers over the Internet using a PC or mobile device, by blocking access to gambling websites. The proposed measures will also inhibit payments to online gambling operators and make remote gambling-related advertisements illegal.
S Iswaran, Singapore’s Second Minister for Home Affairs, announced the proposal at yesterday’s Symposium on Casino Regulations and Crime.
“Remote gambling gives us cause for concern [because] is ubiquitously and easily accessible through the Internet and mobile applications, especially by a younger and more tech-savvy generation,” said Iswaran. “The nature and design of the games, especially poker and casino-type games, lend themselves to repetitive play and addictive behavior.”
Analysts estimate that remote gambling in Singapore accounts for more than $375 million in annual revenue. That figure is expected to grow by 6 to 7 percent annually, thanks in part to the increasing popularity of smartphones and tablets.
A survey of 1000 Singaporean Internet users, commissioned by the Ministry for Home Affairs (MFA), found that about one third of respondents had gambled online at least once in the past year. Of those who participate in remote gambling, 58 percent are men and 64 percent are between 25 and 44 years old.
The latest figures present a stark contrast to a 2011 survey by Singapore’s National Council for Problem Gambling, which found that only 1 percent of respondents had tried gambling online.
Singaporean authorities are also concerned that online gambling will open the doors to societal evils beyond gambling addiction.
“From a law and order perspective, remote gambling operations can potentially become a source or conduit of funds for other illegal activities and syndicated crime,” Iswaran added. “These operators are beyond our jurisdiction and they operate without restrictions or limitations on the types of games they can offer or the promotions and advertising they undertake.”
The MFA may consider granting limited exceptions to remote gambling operators that meet strict regulations – similar to the current system in Hong Kong.
“The Singapore Government will probably take inspiration from different models to control remote gambling,” gambling law expert Bryan Tan told Out-Law. “The task may be an uphill one considering how connected the country is and the open nature of its payments infrastructure.”
Singapore’s gambling market is worth $6 billion. Citizens are required to pay an $80 levy to enter either of the country’s two casinos.