Track online gambling closely: Catholic Church

The Catholic Church has urged the Government to closely monitor its recent move to allow two lottery operators here to offer online betting services.

A statement to the Catholic community issued by Archbishop William Goh on Wednesday urged the authorities to take "all necessary measures to help those who may fall victim to online gambling".

It said that the Church has also asked for more regular consultations and updates on the consequences of the decision.

Archbishop Goh said the Church shares the concerns of many Singaporeans on the moral and social implications of gambling on society, "especially on the family and, in particular, on the impending invasion of this potential vice into the sacred space of our homes".

It is the second statement from a religious body on the Ministry of Home Affairs' (MHA) decision last month to allow Singapore Pools and Singapore Turf Club to run online betting services.

The National Council of Churches Singapore, which represents over 250 churches, called for a review of the decision on Oct 5.

The authorities' approval followed applications by the Singapore-based lottery operators to be exempted from the Remote Gambling Act passed by Parliament two years ago. The Act outlaws all online and phone betting activities.

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

Archbishop Goh said that the Church appreciates that the Government has done its due diligence to ensure that stringent measures are put in place to minimise the ill-effects.

For instance, the MHA said operators will have to put in place safeguards, such as allowing only those above 21 to open accounts.

Archbishop Goh said the Church has nevertheless urged the Government to continually review these safeguards to ensure they "keep pace with developments in the online and social environment" and remain effective in protecting individuals from falling into financial difficulty.

"Games of chance or wagers are not in themselves contrary to justice… (but) they become morally unacceptable when they deprive someone of what is necessary to provide for his needs and those of others," he noted.

Archbishop Goh added: "It behooves us to not only speak out against any moves that threaten to destroy the well-being of our families but, more importantly, to work with those in charge to find lasting solutions to the problems facing our society."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 13, 2016, with the headline 'Track online gambling closely: Catholic Church'. Print Edition | Subscribe