Online gambling could be banned in Singapore under new laws it is considering as part of efforts to curb such activities.
New regulations could see access to betting websites blocked, and advertisements promoting them being prohibited, according to S. Iswaran, Singapore's second minister for Home Affairs. He was speaking at the launch of the third Symposium on Casino Regulation and Crime at the Police Cantonment Complex.
Payments to remote gambling operators may also be blocked, he added. Such activities "can potentially become a source or conduit of funds for other illegal activities and syndicated crime", said Iswaran.
"Under our laws, the provision of gambling is not permitted unless specifically allowed for, by way of an exemption or license. However, our current laws do not expressly address remote gambling as they were enacted before the Internet era," he said.
Limited opening up possible
Iswaran noted that while the measures "may not be foolproof", they would impede access and send a clear signal of Singapore's regulatory stance.
"To divert gambling away from unauthorised and unregulated operators, some jurisdictions like Hong Kong have allowed a limited form of remote gambling through a strictly regulated authorised entity. Our agencies will carefully consider provisions for a similar tightly controlled exemption in Singapore, with constraints on the type of operator and stringent social safeguards," he said.
The new details follows the government's announcement in May that it was studying how to restrict access to online gambling sites and its social impact. It had said this was part of its "commitment to protect minors and vulnerable groups in society".
Currently, most gambling sites now accept credit card payment or wire transfer by service providers such as Western Union or PayPal. There are also loopholes where online users can also pay for tokens and credits, and play gambling games on mobile apps or social networking sites such as Facebook.
Besides the two casino licensees in Singapore, the state-owned Totalisator Board is the only operator in the country allowed to run gambling activities such as lotteries and sports betting.