Online Gambling in Singapore was strictly regulated by the he Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) in Feb. 2015 by passage of the Remote Gambling Act (RGA). Its intent was to protect Singaporeans from being exploited by online gambling and to do that the RGA provided a comprehensive set of blocking measures. These measures included a ban on gambling advertisements, website blocking and payment blocking. Exemptions can be made, but are tightly controlled by the RGA. Typically, an online gambling site licensed by the MHA would have to be Singapore-based, not-for-profit, in the public’s best interest and must contribute to a good social cause. Casino style games, such as slots, poker, roulette, etc. will be banned.
Now, the Singapore government is allowing online gambling, but in a much more limited form prior to passage of the 2015 RGA. Two new sites, Singapore Pools lottery and Singapore Turf Club horse race betting, have been approved by the MHA. Singapore Pools will launch on October 25 and will offer lottery products, sports betting on horse racing, football and Formula 1 racing. They have already signed a deal with OpenBet for construction of a new website that will allow punters to actually place bets online rather than simply check odds before wagering at a retail outlet. The Turf Club will have an online wagering platform called iTote and will launch on Nov. 15. Online casino games will not be allowed.
Licenses for the two sites will be valid for three years. Routine audits will be conducted by the MHA. The online gambling operators must show that they are maintaining social safeguards, including no wagering on credit and setting daily funding and gambling limits. Fines for not maintaining safeguards can be up to $734k per offence and possibly loss of license.
Singapore does have two brick and mortar casinos with safeguards for people with a gambling problem. Problem gamblers can be registered with the Family Exclusion or the Automatic Exclusion programs. Anyone who has been registered for problem gambling will be forbidden to access the online betting sites. This will be accomplished during registration for an online account. A person can open an account by registering online, but can not actually place a bet until the account has been verified by appearing in person at a retail outlet. This will prevent a problem gambler from using a fictitious name in order to bypass the ban. Two-factor authentication will be required for each account log-in, with a one-time PIN sent to the account holder’s mobile phone.
Allowing the two new sites to bypass the RGA exemptions hasn’t been without controversy. The opposition Worker’s Party started an online petition to prevent the exemptions but the Singapore government said that totally banning online gambling was not a workable solution. Gambling would just move underground and the government would be stymied from protecting problem gamblers.