SINGAPORE - Second Minister for Home Affairs S. Iswaran explained to Parliament on Tuesday the need for exemptions that allow for a limited form of online gambling in Singapore under the Remote Gambling Bill.
Applicants who want to apply for an online gambling licence have to meet strict criteria - be based in Singapore, non-profit, contribute to a social cause, and have a good compliance track record. Mr Iswaran, citing overseas jurisdictions such as Hong Kong and Norway where exemptions are allowed, said this was necessary to prevent driving such activities underground. Casino-style games and poker will also not be allowed, he added, in his speech for the Second Reading of the Bill.
The Bill will bring laws against online gambling in line with those for terrestrial gambling in Singapore, he emphasised. "We prohibit gambling, unless it is specifically allowed for by way of a stringently regulated exemption or license. We will adopt a similar approach to remote gambling." Illustrating the lucrative nature of remote gambling operations, Mr Iswaran cited a recent Interpol operation during the Fifa World Cup when law enforcement agencies in six Asian countries including Singapore made more than 1,000 raids and 1,400 arrests. These organised crime syndicates had handled about US$2.2 billion (S$2.81 billion) worth of bets through illegal websites.
He allayed concerns that the Bill could inadvertently affect social and video games as long as players "cannot convert in-game credits or tokens for money or real merchandise outside the game".