Review online betting nod for 2 operators: Churches

The National Council of Churches Singapore (NCSS), citing concerns over problem gambling, has called for a review of a recent decision to allow two lottery operators to offer online betting services.

In a statement yesterday, it appealed to the Government to relook its decision to allow Singapore Pools and the Singapore Turf Club to start running online betting platforms in the next two months.

The council, which represents more than 250 churches, said it was gravely concerned about the move to exempt the operators from the Remote Gambling Act.

It said the Government is sending "confusing and conflicting signals", noting that the Remote Gambling Act, which outlaws 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 nod to the operators to launch online services, following applications by the Singapore-based lottery operators to be exempted from the Act.

Singapore Pools will launch its online betting services on Oct 25, and the Turf Club will roll out its new Web and mobile platform on Nov 15. Punters can place bets for 4-D, Toto, football, F1 sports and horse racing.

MHA said the operators will have to put in place safeguards, such as allowing only those above 21 to open accounts. It added that a complete ban would only drive remote gambling underground.

But NCCS, the first religious organisation to comment on the issue, said it "finds it difficult" to accept this rationale, adding this "cannot be the best option for Singapore".

The council said it was concerned about the adverse personal, familial and social effects of online gambling. Online gambling is also responsible for the rise in underage gambling, it added.

NCSS said: "Removing the temptation of gambling from living rooms and workspaces will ultimately strengthen the fabric of our society for generations to come."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 06, 2016, with the headline 'Review online betting nod for 2 operators: Churches'. Print Edition | Subscribe