Safeguards to prevent addiction to online gambling
Does allowing tightly-controlled online betting services contradict the purpose of the Remote Gambling Act, which is to criminalise remote gambling activities?
While a general prohibition against remote gambling is necessary, a complete ban will only drive the demand underground and worsen law and order concerns, said Deputy Commissioner of Police (Investigations & Intelligence) Tan Chye Hee.
Since February last year, when the Act came into force, more than 120 people were arrested for remote gambling offences.
During the Euro 2016 football championships, the police arrested 39 suspects. The value of illegal bets collected by these suspects was $2.5 million.
There is neither protection for those gambling illegally, nor any restrictions on advertising by illegal operators, a Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) spokesman said.
"With the exempt operator regime, there will be safeguards and regulations to minimise gambling addiction," she said.
Touch Community Services manager Mr Chong Ee Jay said: "I guess you can say that it's the lesser of two evils in a way... Coming from a community service group, if you ask us, the best approach is definitely not to allow any of this. But from what we understand from the Ministry's point of view, there are already people trying out (these betting services). This move is to make it legal and within acceptable boundaries."
Will these online betting services be another source of temptation for people to gamble?
There are safeguards like setting compulsory daily expenditure and funding limits in place to minimise overspending, said the MSF spokesman.
To prevent addiction, there are responsible gambling messages on the signs of problem gambling, and reminders such as a time counter to indicate the time spent since logging in, she said.
The operators' not-for-profit nature reduces the incentive to pursue commercial benefits at the expense of their social responsibilities, a Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) spokesman said.
"MSF and MHA will be closely monitoring the situation, and will calibrate the safeguards accordingly," she added.
Those who are unable to register for an account can access the betting services through someone else's account. How can this be addressed?
There will be measures in place to ascertain the identity of their customers.
Before an account can be activated, the identity and age of the player will be verified in person, in addition to the relevant exclusion checks on the applicant, said the MHA spokesman.
A two-factor authentication process will be executed each time a player logs on, triggering a one-time PIN which will be sent to the player's mobile phone.
If an account holder allows someone else to bet using his account, the operators will terminate the account and bar the account holder from re-opening an account in the future.
But Touch Community Services' Mr Chong acknowledged that there is no stopping a verified account holder from passing his phone to someone who is not allowed to create an account.
"I have come to terms that there is no perfect legislation without loopholes," he said.
Adding that such loopholes exist with other societal concerns like underage smoking, he said: "Efforts will have to go to public education and community support."
The National Council on Problem Gambling (NCPG) has been conducting prevention programmes with an emphasis on remote gambling since 2014. For the younger ones in schools, MSF partners Touch Cyber Wellness and Fei Yue Community Services, to deliver NCPG's cyber wellness roadshows and talks.
Online betting to be allowed (with safeguards)
BET ONLINE: Singapore Pools to offer 4D, TOTO, sports betting - football (including live betting during matches) and motor-racing, while Singapore Turf Club will have horse-racing. TNP PHOTO ILLUSTRATION: ISKANDAR ROSSALI
With a click of the mouse, punters will be able to buy lottery, bet on football and motor racing with Singapore Pools from Oct 25, and horse racing with Singapore Turf Club from Nov 15.
Singapore Pools and Singapore Turf Club will be issued exemption certificates when they launch their online betting services. Their certificates will be valid for three years.
The two were found to be suitable by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) and will operate under a set of stringent conditions.
- Singapore Pools from Oct 25.
- Singapore Turf Club from Nov 15.
Currently, both Singapore Pools and Singapore Turf Club offer only telephone betting services.
Both operators will allow bets to be placed online once they launch their new services. Singapore Turf Club will launch iTote, a new online wagering platform which can be accessed via the Internet, or through the iTote app available on both Apple and Android devices.
An Enhanced Singapore Pools account service will launched for registered customers to place bets online.
Existing gold and platinum account customers must update their personal particulars by Oct 23 in order to migrate to the Singapore Pools account.
WHAT'S ON OFFER?
- Singapore Pools: 4D, TOTO, football (including live betting during matches) and motor racing.
- Singapore Turf Club: Horse racing.
Singapore Pools and Turf Club have to implement measures, including:
- A self-exclusion system where individuals can voluntarily exclude themselves from betting.
- Providing information on responsible gambling and help services (for problem gambling) to all players before they are allowed to gamble.
- Notifications on daily deposits and winnings/losses when the player logs in or out of his account.
- Alerts indicating that the player has exceeded 75 per cent of his expenditure limit when he logs in or out of his account.
- Publishing the odds of winning (where applicable) on the websites of the exempt operators.
- Providing player access to monthly statements of his gambling activities and patterns.
- Only those aged 21 and above will be allowed to open player accounts.
- Those who are excluded from casinos under the Family Exclusion, Automatic Exclusion by law or Third Party Exclusion Order will not be allowed to open or maintain player accounts.
- Remote gambling can only be conducted through a player account with both operators. Before an account can be activated, the identity and age of the player will be verified in person, on top of the relevant exclusion checks on the applicant. Each time a player logs in to his account for remote gambling, a two-factor authentication process will be executed. The player will have to input his user ID as well as a one-time PIN, which will be sent to his mobile phone.
- Gambling on credit is not allowed.
If an exempt operator fails to comply with the conditions imposed, regulatory sanctions may be imposed. This includes a financial penalty of up to $1 million for each instance of non-compliance.