BUSINESS

Singaporeans bombarded with online gambling SMS promos

TAGs: Singapore, Text messaging

singapore-gambling-text-spamResidents of Singapore are being bombarded with unsolicited gambling advertisements appearing on their smartphones, according to new statistics from the local privacy watchdog.

This week, Singapore’s Personal Data Protection Commission announced that it had received 8,800 public complaints about unsolicited text message spam promoting ‘easy’ financial loans or unauthorized online gambling services in the period covering January to September 2016.

While the number of complaints is down 18% from the same period in 2015, the loan and gambling come-ons nonetheless represented 80% of all complaints submitted to the Commission. The watchdog group noted that the actual number of such promotions is likely much larger, but many Singaporeans simply don’t bother to file a complaint, in part because many of the gambling services are located outside Singapore and thus fall outside the authorities’ jurisdiction.

Singapore began actively blocking international online gambling sites in February 2015 following passage of the Remote Gambling Act in October 2014. It wasn’t until October of this year that the city-state formally authorized local sports lottery provider Singapore Pools to launch a legally permissible online wagering site. The Singapore Turf Club launched its iTote pari-mutuel wagering site shortly thereafter.

Similar text message promos have long been a source of angst across the border in Malaysia, where the authorities have to date canceled over 12k mobile phone numbers linked to unauthorized online gambling marketing.

The Malaysian government has claimed this sharp rise in SMS gambling come-ons reflects their success in stamping out illegal online gambling websites, although the reality is more like the old adage about when life closes a door, God (and/or Google) opens a window.

Despite neighboring Singapore taking tentative steps to permit legal online wagering, Malaysian authorities have emphatically reiterated their opposition to allowing any expansion in the limited palette of legal gambling options available to Malaysian punters.

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