Singapore Pools, the sole authorized provider of lottery products in the Asian city-state, is reportedly preparing to launch an online gambling site. The move comes just two weeks after Singapore’s government suggested it would introduce legislation banning online gambling sites in a bid to eliminate a potential “source or conduit of funds for other illegal activities and syndicated crime.”
Singapore Pools is owned by the Singapore Totaliser Board and operates over 300 retail outlets. In addition to traditional lottery products, players can place limited wagers on football, such as which team will be ahead at half-time or full-time, odd or even number of goals, over/under goal totals, first and last scorers and which team scores first. Singapore Pools also accepts wagers on motor racing, including the winner, fastest lap, the number of drivers who’ll complete at least 90% of the race, etc.
At present, Singapore Pools accepts phone wagers from registered members but its website only allows members to check their account activity, with no option to place bets. While the company has yet to confirm or deny anything, sources told the Straits Times that the company is considering allowing online wagers, assuming its members passed stringent identity and credit history checks. The government has rejected similar proposals in the past, but Singapore Pools is reportedly discussing the matter again with various government agencies, including the National Council on Problem Gambling, in the hope of assuaging concerns that online wagering might bring about the Apocalypse.
When Second Minister for Home Affairs S. Iswaran announced the government was considering lifting its ban-hammer, he suggested some limited form of online gambling might be permitted by a state-authorized entity – similar to that offered by the Hong Kong Jockey Club – to help curb Singaporeans’ desire to seek out unauthorized sites. The size of Singapore’s online gambling market has been estimated at over $370m and growing at an annual rate of between 6% and 7%.
SINGAPORE’S BLACK FRIDAY LOOMING?
Assuming the reports are accurate, the limited options on the Singapore Pools site couldn’t hope to satisfy the needs of most gamblers, including online poker players. Earlier this month, the Establishment Post queried a number of local players about Minister Iswaran’s proposal/threat. PokerStars-sponsored pro Bryan Huang was quoted expressing his sincere hope that “the game we love, live on, play seriously as a hobby does not get mixed up with the shady activities/online casinos targeted by the new laws.” Regardless, Huang acknowledged that this might represent “Black Friday in Singapore,” and thus he would “definitely be watching closely when these laws go into place and make the necessary arrangements to make sure I am not breaking any laws.”
Other players noted that Singapore had recently qualified a team for the 2014 Poker World Cup in Brazil and thus an online poker crackdown would represent a “giant leap backwards for the game.” Singapore’s Casino Regulatory Authority (CRA) is renowned for its willingness to fine its two integrated resort casino operators for breaching social safeguards, but Huang hoped the CRA would recognize that responsible poker sites like Stars weren’t exactly slouches in terms of harm minimization for vulnerable players. (On Jan. 6, the CRA will get a new CEO – Jerry See, current CEO of the Home Team Academy, the training institute for members of Singapore’s police, civil defence force and prison service. Uh-oh…) Huang said he and other “serious players” wouldn’t have a problem “paying some kind of tax” under a regulated system, “but please, don’t flip the switch on online poker.”