SINGAPORE - The National Council of Churches Singapore (NCSS) is appealing to the Government to review its recent move to allow two lottery operators here to offer online betting starting from the next two months.
In a statement on Wednesday (Oct 5), the council, which represents more than 250 churches, said it was gravely concerned about the decision to exempt Singapore Pools and the Singapore Turf Club from the Remote Gambling Act.
It said the Government is sending "confusing and conflicting signals", noting that the Remote Gambling Act, which outlawed all online and phone betting activities, was passed by Parliament just two years ago.
Last week, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) said it was giving the green light to the two operators to launch their online services, exempting them from the Remote Gambling Act. Singapore Pools will be launching its online betting services on Oct 25 and the Turf Club will launch its new Web and mobile platform on Nov 15. Punters can place bets only for 4D, Toto, football, F1 sports and horse-racing. Casino-style games or poker will not be allowed under this move.
The Straits Times had learnt in September that the Singapore-based lottery operators had applied to be exempted from the Act.
MHA said operators have to put in place safeguards, such as allowing only those above 21 to open accounts and requiring players to set daily limits on how much they want to spend on online gambling. Other safeguards include the option for self-exclusion, and checks to ensure that those who try to open accounts do not have existing casino exclusion orders.
MHA had said that a complete ban would only drive remote gambling underground, making it harder to detect.
But the council said it "finds it difficult" to accept this rationale, adding that this "cannot be the best option for Singapore".
It noted that it was concerned about the adverse personal, familial and social impact of online gambling, and listed studies highlighting how problem gambling affects the family, productivity at work, and also leads to depression, anxiety and suicidal tendencies in pathological gamblers. It added that Internet gambling is also responsible for the increased incidence of underage gambling.
It said: "The Council is deeply concerned that with the legalisation of online gambling, these serious social problems will be further exacerbated, despite stringent safeguards and controls.
"The NCCS believes that removing the temptation of gambling from living rooms and work spaces will ultimately strengthen the fabric of our society for generations to come. We affirm the national ethos of working hard for the quality of life one aspires to as a fundamental societal value which has brought Singapore to where she is today."