A former employee of Singapore Pools has been sentenced to over five years in prison for manipulating football odds at the city-state’s sports betting monopoly provider. Thomas Tong Heng Huat was one of two former Singapore Pools staffers charged last month with hacking into the company’s Margin Maker 2 program to manipulate over/under odds on 52 football matches between August 2011 and January 2012.
The scheme involved one employee tweaking the odds while the other off-duty schemer placed wagers. The pair stayed in contact via text messages in order to ensure the odds were in their favor when the wagers were booked. The duo’s antics netted them a reward of $185k, around half of which Singapore Pools managed to recoup once it caught on to their caper.
On Friday, the 31-year-old Heng was sentenced to five years and four months after admitting to 16 of the 52 charges he’d been facing. The Straits Times reported that Heng’s co-accused, Ricky Widjaja, has yet to reach a similar plea with prosecutors.
Meanwhile, to virtually no one’s surprise, the Singapore Turf Club has announced it intends to apply to become an official licensed online gambling operator. On Monday, Singapore’s parliament got its first glimpse at legislation designed to launch a regulated online gambling market. The Remote Gambling Bill will criminalize unauthorized operators, agents and their customers, while granting exemptions to outfits like Singapore Pools and its horserace betting counterpart, whose proceeds are funnelled back into the community to fund social and charitable causes.
Singapore Pools has yet to publicly confirm that it will seek an exemption, although it has expressed interest in expanding its website to do more than allow customers to check their account activity. Singapore Pools customers can currently only wager at retail outlets or over the telephone, while the Turf Club offers wagering via phone and smart devices.
Singapore’s government estimates that its citizens lost S$521m (US $416m) to online gambling sites in 2013, 8% more than the previous year. Of this sum, the government believes 95% of it went to internationally licensed sites. The new legislation is designed to curtail this activity, but not everyone is convinced the government will achieve its goal.
Alfred Siew, editor of tech website Techgoondu, told the China Post that the government’s plan to IP-block unauthorized sites would likely only prove effective in deterring “casual” gamblers. “If the person is hardcore enough, he will find a way to access” pretty much any digital forbidden fruit, often by using a virtual private network (VPN). Case in point: Noel Biderman, who runs the Canadian-based Ashley Madison site that assists married people in facilitating affairs, noted that the site had over 5k customers in Singapore, despite a government ban on accessing the site. Bottom line: where there’s a willie, there’s a way.