Online gambling exemptions a bad bet

I read with regret that local lottery operators Singapore Pools and the Singapore Turf Club have applied to be exempted from laws that curb online betting, and that Singapore Pools has hired a British online gambling software developer to develop a sports betting website ("Legal online betting could kick off next June"; yesterday).

Gambling addiction and Internet addiction are two common addictions that each present a set of social problems. To allow legal online betting is to encourage the conflation of these two addictions, potentially resulting in new social problems on an aggravated scale.

Punters now have to make trips to a betting outlet or to a casino if they wish to gamble, expending time, energy, and even money for entry fees in the process. These efforts serve as little barriers in deterring punters from gambling.

Allowing an avenue for these punters, many of whom are Internet users, to gamble in the comfort of their homes, is to facilitate gambling at an unprecedented level.

The ease of payment by prepaid credit, charged to one's credit card, facilitates the purchase of gambling credits without too much thought, since "real" money does not change hands as would be the case in a betting outlet or at the casino.

The Government has said that exempted betting operators would need to be "not for profit" and would have to put in place "robust social safeguards". But this is cold comfort for many who would rather see a blanket ban on online gambling than a slew of "safeguards" whose effectiveness is largely unproven.

I urge the Government, in the interest of protecting society and families, and in preserving the strong work ethic in Singapore, not to grant an exception to any betting operator under the Remote Gambling Act.

Trent Ng Yong En

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 09, 2015, with the headline 'Online gambling exemptions a bad bet'. Print Edition | Subscribe