Singapore lauded for anti-online gambling effort

Policing mobile, Internet betting can help fight transnational crime: Expert

The ability to bet on anything, including the number of yellow cards awarded in a football match, has led to a rise in match-fixing activity.
The ability to bet on anything, including the number of yellow cards awarded in a football match, has led to a rise in match-fixing activity. ST PHOTO: NEO XIAOBIN

With new online gambling laws on the cards here, a global industry expert has hailed Singapore's moves to fight transnational crime and gaming addiction.

The proposed laws follow steady growth of remote gambling - which includes mobile and Internet gambling - here, estimated at more than $370 million in 2012 and poised to grow by 6 per cent to 7 per cent annually.

Mr Christian Kalb, who runs Paris-based gaming consulting firm CK Consulting, told an Institute of Policy Studies forum on Tuesday that the largely anonymous nature of remote gambling makes it difficult to police.

This has led to a rise in "more sophisticated" global match-fixing activity, primarily in football, but also increasingly in sports such as basketball and rugby.

Mr Kalb, 49, said: "Today, you can bet on everything. At the next World Cup, some operators may offer more than 250 different bets for one single game."

These include bets that are "easy to influence", such as the number of yellow cards awarded between the 10th and 20th minute of a football match.

He added: "We can look at all the best practices in the world but there is no one ideal solution."

The Ministry of Home Affairs said last November that it is looking to introduce measures to curb online gambling in Singapore.

These include blocking access to illegal gambling websites, preventing payments to operators and banning advertisements, but the ministry said it may grant certain exemptions.

Speaking to The Straits Times after the forum, Mr Kalb gave suggestions on the planned measures.

Rather than a blanket ban, he proposed a "practical" ban of the top 50 betting operators.

He said: "You do not need to target a small bookmaker based in Central America. You choose the targets, and it is not 1,000 companies."

Exemptions, if granted, should only be for Singapore-based operators which can be subject to regulatory control and financial audits.

To curb addiction, restrictions such as limits on bets could be imposed.

But Mr Kalb acknowledged that operators can still circumvent the rules through ways like creating virtual private networks and advertising in football matches, be it on billboards or logos on players' shirts.

He suggested tougher punishments to deter would-be offenders, lured by potentially steep rewards disproportionate to the risks of arrest.

Mr Kalb said he was pleased with the detention without trial of Dan Tan Seet Eng - who Interpol labels as "the leader of the world's most notorious match-fixing syndicate" - under the Criminal Law (Temporary Provisions) Act.

Speaking about the modus operandi, Mr Kalb said Tan sent his accomplices to Italy to convey bribes, transferring profits to a shell company in Panama.

The money was then funnelled to global syndicate members, from Croatia to China.

He said of Singapore's global reputation: "I think it is no longer on the front of match-fixing. This is because the brain was in Singapore."

On social gaming, Mr Kalb said it was too nascent a development to assess its risks.

Some games may offer exchange of in-game points for gifts or virtual currency bitcoin.

He said: "The definitions of gaming may change but today it is clear that this is not gambling."

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