Online gambling will be back in vogue in Singapore this fall, albeit in a far more limited form than before.
On Thursday, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) declared that the Singapore Pools lottery monopoly and Singapore Turf Club race betting monopoly had been “found suitable” for exemption from the Remote Gambling Act (RGA) that was enacted in February 2015.
The new Singapore Pools Account service will launch on Oct. 25, offering 4D and Toto lottery products, as well as betting on football and Formula 1 races. The Turf Club’s new iTote online wagering platform will debut on Nov. 15. Neither operator is permitted to offer online casino, poker or other gambling products.
The two operators’ RGA exemptions are valid for three years and could be revoked if routine audits and inspections show the sites’ failing to maintain social safeguards, including setting daily funding and gambling limits and no wagering on credit. Failure to maintain these safeguards could also result in fines of up to S$1m (US $734k) per offence.
Online accounts can be registered online but verification must take place at a retail outlet. Two-factor authentication will be required for each account log-in, with a one-time PIN sent to the account holder’s mobile phone.
Individuals who have been prohibited from visiting Singapore’s two land-based integrated resorts under either the Family Exclusion or Automatic Exclusion programs will not be permitted to access the new betting sites.
The RGA prohibited all online gambling sites except those that redirected most of their proceeds to charitable organizations and other socially worthwhile causes. Singapore proceeded to IP-block the domains and block payments to and from hundreds of online gambling sites that failed to meet these socially beneficial criteria.
Singapore Pools and the Turf Club duly applied for exemptions from the RGA, and Singapore Pools went as far as to ink a long-term deal with sports betting technology providers OpenBet to build a new website that would allow punters to actually place bets online rather than simply check odds before wagering at a retail outlet.
Public campaigns to prevent the exemptions had grown in recent weeks, including formal protests by the opposition Workers’ Party and an online petition that garnered over 12k signatures.
Singapore’s government responded by saying a complete ban on online gambling was unworkable and “drives demand and activities underground,” which threatens law and order and the government’s ability to protect problem gamblers.