Singapore took a further step toward explicitly prohibiting online gambling after the Remote Gambling Bill made its first appearance in the nation’s parliament on Monday. The legislation, which was promised last November, would prohibit all online and telephone betting unless done with operators issued a certificate of exemption by Singaporean authorities.
The criteria for being issued one of the new online gambling exemptions include being based in Singapore, holding a non-profit status, contributing to local social or charitable causes as well as holding an unblemished legal and regulatory compliance record. Local monopoly sports betting operator Singapore Pools has been mulling the expansion of its website to allow it to accept wagers rather than merely allow members to check their account activity. A representative of the National Council on Problem Gambling told Channel News Asia that online betting would likely be restricted to football, Formula 1 and horseracing.
The legislation also details specific punishments for both illegal operators and their customers. Punters face penalties on par with those already on the books for gambling via other illegal channels: fines of up to S$5k (US $4k) and up to six months in prison. Illegal online operators would face fines of between S$20k and S$200k ($16k to $160k). Operators based outside Singapore would face even harsher penalties, with fines up to S$500k and up to seven years in prison, although enforcing such penalties could prove problematic. The legislation also targets betting agents by criminalizing promotion or advertising of non-exempted firms.
Local internet service providers and financial institutions would be required (if so ordered) to block access to certain websites and to choke off the flow of cash to and from illegal operators. Failure to comply with the authorities’ wishes could result in these institutions being fined up to S$500k per offence. Not surprisingly, the Association of Banks in Singapore (ABS) and some prominent ISPs stated that they support the proposed legislation, although the ABS qualified its support by insisting that “any blocking requirement imposed must be operationally feasible and not result in undue regulatory and operational burdens.”