Minister for Social and Family Development Tan Chuan-Jin said in Parliament on Monday (10 October) that the Government’s position on online gambling is “not to encourage it”, but to “recognise a reality” that there are Singaporeans who engage in it and hence provide a “safer space” to manage it.
Mr Tan was responding to questions filed by Mr Christopher de Souza and Dr Tan Wu Meng.
The two MPs asked the Minister about the following questions.
- What safeguards to prevent an increase in online gambling addiction in light of the pending approval of exempted online providers?
- What proportion of cases is primarily online gambling?
- What proportion of cases has found online gambling to be a gateway to offline gambling?
- What safeguards which the Ministry will introduce to safeguard the public from the harm of online
- Should local betting providers enter the sector?
- Over the past one year, what proportion of problem gambling cases has a history of online gambling?
“I know from a specific individual perspective we would like to take a stronger position to say that we ban it, and send a very clear signal that way. But the issue is how to deal with the very real and practical problem which is that people are gambling online,” Mr Tan said.
He stated that the Government’s objective in doing so is to see how best they can look after the well-being of Singaporeans.
By reiterating a concern he had highlighted in an interview with Channel NewsAsia, he said, “The reality is that there are Singaporeans who are online gambling and they are gambling in a space where there are no social safeguards and no monitoring.”
According to Mr Tan, Singapore is being exposed to “very real dangers” with no safeguards or safety valves in illegal gambling. He said, “It’s not just a virtual gambling space, and it does extend to a very real world problem.”
One of the Government’s biggest concern is the criminal element of online gambling. He said, “You have punters, bookies, runners and agents collecting bet monies and extending credit lines, and a lot of them are unfortunately involved in syndicate crimes. That is not trivial from that perspective as well.”
He said that the Government are concerned that the numbers may grow as the space continues to proliferate and the Internet continues to grow in terms of accessibility. “So at least for those who are there, can we at least provide some form of a safer space for that?” he said.
Mr Tan also said, “This fairly controlled tightly managed space with social safeguards will be one way to deal with the excesses of online gambling. But if it turns out that there continue to be issues, we will take a closer look at how best to deal with it.”
There is no reports of Mr Tan answering the other questions poised by the two PAP MPs and it is unknown if there were any supplementary questions following Mr Tan’s reply as mainstream media did not report on it although they have the livestream of the parliamentary hearing.
The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has earlier 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.