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Home Team News Home / News / Legislation announced to restrict Remote Gambling  
Published: 29 Nov 2013 10:09AM (Singapore)
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Legislation announced to restrict Remote Gambling
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At the 3rd Singapore Symposium on Casino Regulation and Crime which kicked off at the Police Cantonment Complex on 28 November 2013, Second Minister for Home Affairs and Trade and Industry Mr S Iswaran announced upcoming plans to extend current laws to restrict remote gambling. The event provides a platform for both foreign and local officers to share experiences and insights and enhance working relationships.
 
By Win Kwang Siang Soon
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“Even as each of our countries continue to grow capabilities and expertise, international collaboration among regulators and enforcement agencies will be crucial if we are to stay ahead of these (criminal) trends,” shared Guest-of-Honour Mr Iswaran,Second Minister for Home Affairs and Trade and Industry. PHOTO: Syed Abu Bakar

The growth of the remote gambling industry is a cause of concern for Singapore authorities.

At the moment, some analysts estimate the size of the industry to be worth about US$300 million, and it is expected to grow by 6-7% annually.

Remote gambling refers to gambling via the internet or any communication devices, such as smart phones.

In his opening speech at the 3rd Singapore Symposium on Casino Regulation and Crime, Guest-of-Honour Mr S Iswaran, Second Minister for Home Affairs and Trade and Industry, shared more of the problems posed by remote gambling.

These include it being ubiquitously and easily accessible through the internet and mobile applications, while the designs of the games lend themselves to repetitive play and stimulate addictive behavior.

“In a recent online survey of around 1,000 internet users commissioned by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), we found that almost 3 in 10 respondents had gambled remotely at least once in the past year,” said Mr Iswaran.

Mr Iswaran also added that remote gambling operations can potentially become a platform misused for syndicated crime.

In light of such developments, he announced a key extension of current gambling legislations to cover the areas of remote gambling.

“Under our laws, the provision of gambling is not permitted unless specifically allowed by way of an exemption or license. However, our current laws do not expressly address remote gambling as they were enacted before the internet era,” shared Mr Iswaran.

Speaking to local and international industry players, Mr Iswaran said that the government intends to restrict remote gambling by making it illegal while introducing measures to give enforcement agencies the powers to act against facilitators, intermediaries and providers of remote gambling services.

Other areas authorities are looking into are also introducing measures to block access to gambling websites, block payments to remote gambling operators and prohibit advertisements on remote gambling.

“While such measures may not be foolproof, they will impede access to remote gambling platforms and send a clear signal of regulatory stance in Singapore,” said Mr Iswaran.

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Mr Iswaran visiting the exhibits at the 3rd Singapore Symposium on Casino Regulation and Crime. PHOTO: Syed Abu Bakar

However, he also highlighted that agencies will consider exemptions.

Mentioning examples from jurisdictions like Hong Kong, which have allowed a limited form of remote gambling through strictly regulated entities, Mr Iswaran said that they will look into the possibility of implementing a similar strategy in Singapore.

“We will launch a public consultation exercise and seek the views of various stakeholders, as we formulate regulatory framework to restrict remote gambling,” he shared.

Working solely on legislation, however, is not the only approach for government authorities.

“The distinction between social gaming and online gaming is blurring…These seemingly harmless games can desensitize youths to the dangers and ills of gambling,” Mr Iswaran added.

Therefore, authorities are looking to strengthen public education with regards to remote gambling and gambling simulation games.

The National Council for Problem Gambling (NCPG), for example, will look to broaden and intensify public education efforts to raise awareness of the risks.

Agencies will also collaborate to implement public education and outreach initiatives.

Ms Hannah Lim, Associate Professor at Nanyang Technological University (NTU), is among those encouraged by the measures introduced.

“Although there will be challenges, I think the measures will be more comprehensive than any other jurisdiction has ever attempted (to be) and will do a good job in tackling it (remote gambling),” shared Ms Lim, upon hearing the announcement.

In her opinion, a key factor that will aid in the success of these measures is Singapore’s smaller number of internet service providers, which will allow greater control over blocking restricted sites.

“Even as each of our countries continue to grow capabilities and expertise, international collaboration among regulators and enforcement agencies will be crucial if we are to stay ahead of these (criminal) trends,” shared Mr Iswaran in closing.

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