Singapore Exempts Two State-Linked Organizations from Online Betting Ban

Less than two years removed from issuing a comprehensive ban on online, telephone, and other remote wagering, Singapore’s government recently exempted two agencies from Remote Gambling Act (RGA) restrictions.

The announcement came on September 29th from Singapore’s Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), which has issued exemptions to the state-owned Singapore Pools lottery company, and the state-linked Singapore Turf Club horse racing track.

According to MHA officials, the Singapore Turf Club applied for an exemption in May of last year, while Singapore Pools applied in July. Having been “found suitable” to operate legal online and remote gambling services, both companies will be permitted to offer real money wagering on lottery style games and sports betting.

In a press release announcing the decision, the MHA insisted that the exemptions were issued in order to provide Singapore’s population with a fully regulated outlet for gambling activities, rather than resorting to underground or offshore means:

“A general prohibition against remote gambling is necessary. (But) while our 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.

A tightly-controlled exempt operator regime mitigates such concerns.”

Following a request for comment by TODAY Online, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSFD) clarified the government’s concerns over consumer protection:

“We know that there are people gambling on illegal websites today and there are no safeguards at all on these sites. There is no protection for persons who are gambling illegally and there are no restrictions on advertising and promotions by illegal operators on their websites, and no restrictions on promotions such as offering credits.

With the exempt operator regime, there will be safeguards and regulations to minimize gambling addiction.”

Specifically, Singapore Pools plans to launch online 4D and Toto lottery games to augment existing telephonic wagering, along with online betting on soccer and Formula 1 racing. The lottery company plans to launch its online platform on October 25th of this year.

The Singapore Turf Club will focus solely on horse race wagering through its iTote mobile app, which will be available on Android and iOS operating systems on November 15th of this year.

No new gambling products can be introduced without express government approval, and casino table games, slot machines, and poker will not be permitted.

According to MHA officials, exemption certificates will be valid for a three-year period. Both exempted companies were required to satisfy an array of conditions, including a shift to non-profit operational status, pledges to divert surplus revenue to charitable groups, and strict internal oversight to prevent “criminal influence.”

The exempted companies must also implement firewalls to prevent players under the age of 21 from placing wagers, disallow the use of credit-based betting, and institute limits on both daily deposit amounts and gambling activity volume.

The MHA declared that both companies will be subjected to routine audits and inspections to check for compliance, with each violation triggering fines of up to S$1 million, and multiple infractions resulting in the revocation of their exemption license.