Blackbox Research Pte Ltd, a Singapore-based research agency that specialises – among others – in public policy, has ran a public survey in November this year, on the controversial gambling exemption to two local gambling operators and found that just under three-quarters of all Singaporeans (74 percent) are either opposed or strongly opposed to both online and offline gambling.
In line with this, 76 percent are concerned that the new exemptions will exacerbate gambling addiction in Singapore.
Despite their concerns, two in five Singaporeans (40 percent) support the new exemptions to online gambling, whilst 21 percent feel that they do not know enough about the issue.
Just under two in five Singaporeans believe that the move will drive more visitors to casinos, the poll found out.
The Blackbox poll also revealed that younger Singaporeans – aged 15-24 – are more supportive of the new measures (46 percent) than the over 50s (36 percent).
Just this year, Singapore government broke away from its earlier stance of not allowing online gambling in the city-state and granted exemptions to Singapore Pools and Singapore Turf Club (STC) on 29 September. The Government said the two operators were suitable to be exempt operators under the Remote Gambling Act (RGA) to run online betting websites. Singapore Pools launches the new online betting website on 25 October 2016.
The government introduced RGA in February 2015, which takes a prohibitive stance against gambling, prohibiting the entire spectrum of remote gambling activities and provides law enforcement agencies with the powers to tackle remote gambling and its associated concerns.
In light of their exemption, Singapore Pools and Singapore TurfClub have to put stringent operating conditions in place. 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. Breaches of these safeguards are punishable with fines of up to $1 million, and a revocation of the operating license.
Pritam Singh, the MP for Aljunied GRC, in his speech at the Parliament House on 7 November, has called the online gambling a ‘scourge’.
Mr Singh said that numerous academic studies have found that online gambling is more addictive than other types of gambling, and that online gamblers have higher rates of gambling addiction than traditional gamblers.
“The Internet has greatly increased the accessibility of gambling. A 2015 study in Spain found a significant increase in pathological gamblers two years after the legalisation of online gambling in that country,” he said.
“The problem was found to be especially serious among young people – online gambling has become the main form of pathological gambling among people below 26 years old in Spain.”
Many netizens are opposed to the government decision.
Former Non-constituency Member of Parliament, Gerald Giam, wrote on his Facebook page that he is totally against the decision to open up the nation to online gambling. He said that the online betting is certainly not beneficial to those who are going to get hooked on gambling, with it becoming a ‘gateway’ to more high stakes gambling. He also wrote in his blog that everyone he has spoken to is against opening up Singapore to online gambling.
And the National Council of Churches of Singapore (NCCS) also expressed its concern that the government has authorised the online betting and called for the government to review its decision on the matter.