Remote gambling in Singapore facing heavy restrictions

Out-Law News | 28 Nov 2013 | 4:58 pm | 1 min. read

Online and other remote betting activities within Singapore will be illegal, subject to "specific exemptions", under plans to be drawn up by the Government in the country.

Singapore's Second Minister for Home Affairs, S Iswaran, said that gambling operators could face sanctions if they are found to be providing remote gambling services to people in Singapore in breach of the new regime.

"As an extension of our current laws, the government intends to restrict remote gambling by making it illegal unless there are specific exemptions," Iswaran said in a speech on Thursday. "We will introduce new laws to give our enforcement agencies the powers to act against facilitators, intermediaries and providers of remote gambling services. We will introduce measures to block access to gambling websites, block payments to remote gambling operators, and prohibit advertisements promoting remote gambling."

"While such measures may not be foolproof, they will impede access to remote gambling platforms and send a clear signal of the regulatory stance in Singapore," he added.

Iswaran said that Singapore intends to follow Hong Kong's lead in developing a regulatory regime that allows for "a limited form of remote gambling through a strictly regulated authorised entity". Such a system was designed in Hong Kong combat the rise of the black market for gambling, he said.

"Our agencies will carefully consider provisions for a similar tightly controlled exemption in Singapore, with constraints on the type of operator and stringent social safeguards," the Minister said. "We will launch a public consultation exercise through REACH and seek the views of various stakeholders, as we formulate the regulatory framework to restrict remote gambling."

Iswaran said that the Singaporean Government had been identified a number of problems with remote gambling that it said had prompted it to act to restrict the activity. The concerns it raised related to the ease with which people, particularly the younger generation, can access gambling sites online and via their mobile devices, the way "the nature and design of the games ... lend themselves to repetitive play and addictive behaviour", and because of the potential for remote gambling platforms to be used as "a source or conduit of funds for other illegal activities and syndicated crime".

Gambling law expert Bryan Tan of Pinsent Masons MPillay, the Singapore joint law venture partner of Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind Out-Law.com, said: "The Singapore Government will probably take inspiration from different models to control remote gambling - the task may be an uphill one considering how connected the country is and the open nature of its payments infrastructure."