3 ways to ban online gambling
Block access payment methods advertising
Report by ELIZABETH LAW
Singapore may consider banning remote gambling because current laws "do not expressly address remote gambling as they were enacted before the Internet era", said Second Minister for Home Affairs, and Trade and Industry S. Iswaran.
He was speaking at the Third Singapore Symposium on Casino Regulation and crime yesterday.
The Government is looking at three different approaches when it comes to banning online gambling - blocking access to websites, blocking payment methods and blocking advertising of such sites.
"We have sought expert advice on this and if we are serious about this, we want to implement all three (methods of blocking) to the best of our ability," Mr Iswaran said.
But he admitted that this might result in illegal operations springing up on the ground, which can be especially dangerous since they would likely be based overseas and out of Singapore's jurisdiction.
He pointed out that remote gambling operations can be potential avenues for money laundering.
Law will be introduced to give enforcement agencies the powers to act against such facilitators, intermediaries and providers of such services.
He also said that officials will consider "very carefully" if provisions could be made to allow a licensed operator who offers a limited range of online gambling products, which is also tightly regulated.
While there are no Singapore-based online gambling websites, other methods of remote gambling are still available. Singapore Pools runs the only legitimate phone betting service here.
Remote gambling is any form of betting that is done offsite, such as online gambling and phone betting.
The global remote gambling industry is worth an estimated US$35 billion (S$44 billion). Analysts estimate the remote gambling market here to be worth US$30 million and expect it to grow by 6 to 7 per cent yearly.
Mr Iswaran said that as games simulating gambling are gaining popularity online, there will be increased public education on these too.
Public consultation on this issue will start today through the government feedback portal. Reach (Reaching Everyone for Active Citizenry @ Home).
Report by RENNIE WHANG
CREDIT CARD TRANSACTIONS
Governments have worked with credit card companies which can disallow charges from being processed, said Dr Vijay Sethi, Professor in Information Technology and Operations Management at Nanyang Business School.
INTERMEDIARIES DEALING WITH DIGITAL CASH SUCH AS PAYPAL
The only way to block such intermediaries is if they voluntarily agree to stop processing such payments, said Dr Sethi, adding that many US states and European countries have worked with PayPal in such initiatives. For example, intermediaries can work with Singapore Government in blocking payments of Singapore residents to gambling sites.
A PayPal spokesman said: "Paypal is committed to complying with all applicable laws and regulations in Singapore, and in every jurisdiction that we do business in. In line with our internet policies, Paypal blocks payments from Singapore-registered PayPal accounts to online gambling sites. We will continue to work closely with regulators in Singapore to ensure compliance."
A Nets Spokesman said that as a company operating in Singapore, Nets is governed by and adheres to the laws of Singapore. "Nets will not support remote gambling if it is illegal," she said.
Users can buy coupons and use them for gambling payments - the method Dr Sethi said is toughest to block. This is because the coupons may not pertain specifically to the gambling industry, but can also be accepted by other legitimate businesses, similar to point card or reward cards.
- Additional Reporting by Elizabeth Law
ONLINE GAMBLING LAWS IN OTHER COUNTRIES
Blocks access to unauthorised gaming websites, but has 20 remote gambling operators offering products like poker, sports betting (such as football) and horse racing.
Two state-owned operators provide remote gambling services, but they channel surpluses to social causes like charities, sports and culture.
The Hong Kong Jockey Club is the online licensee that offers both onsite and remote betting for horse racing, the lottery and football. It is a not-for-profit organisation that uses surpluses to support charitable and community projects, as well as social welfare initiatives.
According to figures from the UK Gambling Commission, there are some 208 remote gambling operators in the country as of March 31. These operators are licensed by the Gambling Commission and have to adhere to strict standards. It is illegal for them to target residents or advertise on any platform.
The government works with financial institutions such as banks and credit card companies to block payment transactions with unauthorised online gambling operators.
What online gambling companies say
A spokesman for Singapore Pools, the only licensed remote gambling operator here, said it has in place a comprehensive responsible gaming framework covering all aspects of its phone betting system, starting from registration.
"At the point of account setup, age and identity checks (such as minimum age of 21 and bankruptcy) and means testing are conducted," she said, adding that after the account is set up, other measures such as self-exclusion and fmaily exclusion are verified.
As for how it would support the Government in the regulations, she said it would comment after studying the legislation, when more details are available. A spokesman for 888, an online casino with eNets payment, said: "We are committed to monitoring closely and addressing regulatory changes as they occur and to fostering, so far as possible, the trend towards liberalisation and regulation of online gaming throughout the world," he said.
News, The New Paper, Friday 29 2013, Pg 4