Legalising online betting

Good for laws to keep up with technology

I agree that legal but well-regulated online betting will be the best way to deal with illicit gambling ("Legal online betting may be available soon"; yesterday).

First, the outright ban of online gambling sites has not managed to eradicate the problem of people gambling online.

This is because while the ban has made it less convenient, the existence of virtual private networks and other means of changing one's Internet Protocol address means it is still possible to access most online betting sites.

In fact, this makes it harder for the authorities to track the identities of those involved in online gambling. This makes it difficult to prevent underage gambling and problem gambling.

By legalising but limiting online gambling to a few sites, the authorities and the companies offering such services can exchange information to minimise these problems.

This can be done by insisting that those registering for an online betting account must provide their personal identity details. This will ensure that people on the exclusion list are not able to gamble.

Second, allowing Singapore Pools and the Singapore Turf Club to take bets online will likely mean increased revenues to fund various social causes.

Since some gamblers would continue trying to gamble online despite a ban, it would be better for this money to stay within Singapore rather than flow overseas through other online sites.

This money can be used to support our local athletes, who have received a tremendous boost since Team Singapore's spectacular performance at the Rio Olympic and Paralympic Games.

To conclude, when a ban is difficult to enforce across the board, we should consider turning to regulation to deal with this persistent problem.

The casinos are a case in point.

While the Government continues to discourage gambling by imposing a $100 levy for Singaporeans and permanent residents, the casinos offer a legal avenue for those who might have turned to illicit gambling otherwise.

By ensuring our laws keep up with global advancements in technology, we will be well equipped to minimise the impact brought on by vice activities to our society.

Lionel Loi Zhi Rui

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 16, 2016, with the headline 'Good for laws to keep up with technology'. Print Edition | Subscribe