MHA to issue exemption certificate to Singapore Pools and Turfclub for online betting services

The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has stated that Singapore Pools Private Limited (Pools) and Singapore Turf Club (STC) are suitable to be exempt operators under the Remote Gambling Act (RGA), therefore, they will be allowed to offer remote gambling services for their existing products, under a stringent set of conditions.

The RGA came into force in February 2015.  The law takes a prohibitive stance against gambling. It prohibits remote gambling activities and provides law enforcement agencies with the powers to tackle remote gambling and its associated concerns.

MHA said that the RGA criminalises the entire spectrum of remote gambling activities, from individual gamblers to persons who facilitate or provide remote gambling services. It also provides a comprehensive set of blocking measures, namely website blocking, payment blocking and advertising bans. This law is part of a multi-pronged strategy to deal with remote gambling. Other components include stepping up enforcement and expanding public education and outreach.

According to MHA, several hundred online gambling sites have been blocked since the RGA came into force, along with bank accounts and credit card transactions linked to remote gambling payments.

MHA stated that its blocking regime is one of the most comprehensive in the world, and significantly restricts and impedes access to remote gambling, it is not straightforward to eradicate remote gambling totally.  A complete ban would only serve to drive remote gambling underground, making it harder to detect and exacerbate the associated law and order and social concerns. The RGA, therefore, provides for a tightly-controlled exempt operator regime to mitigate these concerns.

MHA states that this approach is not unique to Singapore. Jurisdictions such as Hong Kong and Norway have adopted a similar approach and also allowed regulated authorised operators.

Under the RGA, an exempt operator must be not-for-profit and be based in Singapore.  It must also contribute to public, social or charitable causes in Singapore.

STC and Singapore Pools submitted applications for exemption certificates in May and July respectively last year.

MHA said that it has conducted thorough checks and assessment of the applications, and found both suitable to be exempt operators.  The exemption is granted only for their existing products.  The exempt operators will not be allowed to offer casino-style games or poker.

MHA claims that it has imposed stringent operating conditions on both entities.

The two entities have to keep their management and operations of the remote gambling services free from criminal influence, ensure the integrity of their operations and implement social safeguards and responsible gambling measures.

Singapore Pools and STC will be issued exemption certificates when they launch their remote gambling services in the next two months. The certificates will be valid for a period of three years.