Legal online betting in Singapore could kick off in time for next June's Euro 2016 football championships.
Lottery operators Singapore Pools and the Singapore Turf Club (STC) have applied to be exempted from laws that curb online betting, The Straits Times has learnt.
Singapore Pools has also confirmed that it has hired British giant OpenBet, which already provides online gambling software for major bookmakers such as William Hill, Paddy Power and Betfair, to help replace its current website with one which can offer sports betting.
This comes ahead of an Aug 1 deadline for lottery operators to apply to the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) to be exempted under the Remote Gambling Act, which came into force on Feb 2.
MHA confirmed with The Straits Times that both Singapore Pools and STC have applied for certificates of exemption to "offer remote gambling services for their existing products".
LIMITS TO CURBS
You can impose all the curbs but a hardened gambler will still go elsewhere to feed his addiction and it's very difficult to try to regulate the online space. It remains to be seen how effective the curbs will be.
MR DICK LUM, executive director of One Hope Centre, which counsels gamblers, on the ability to change mindsets
Singapore Pools offers football and motor-racing betting, as well as lottery games like 4-D and Toto, while STC takes bets for horse races.
MHA said that the applications will take nine to 12 months to evaluate, based on "strict" criteria.
Any operator looking to get into online betting must be not for profit and has to include "robust social safeguards" in the websites to help gamblers control their activity.
Singapore Pools plans to display the time spent on the gambling website and even allow people to apply for self-exclusion orders.
It also told The Straits Times that it is likely to separate its betting website from its corporate site due to "security, technical and responsible gaming considerations". According to documents obtained by The Straits Times, the look and feel of the two sites should be coordinated to "reduce customer confusion".
It is also understood that it will cost about $10 million for OpenBet to build a new site.
A steering committee, led by Singapore Pools chief executive Seah Chin Siong, has been set up to oversee the operator's sports business and IT teams, which are working towards getting the site up and running in time for the Euro 2016.
The teams are said to also be working with banks on how to link customer bank accounts to the betting system.
The Straits Times understands that the OpenBet team will be in Singapore next week to conduct workshops on how to run online betting operations.
The Remote Gambling Act criminalises a host of remote gambling activities, among them phone betting, unless exemption is specifically obtained.
So far, 11 people, who were allegedly collecting bets amounting to about $3 million, have been caught for flouting the remote gambling laws.
The online gambling industry here is estimated to have raked in $500 million last year from gambling portals based locally and overseas before they were shut down.