Football clubs' jackpot funds need strict checks: MHA

The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has reminded Singapore Premier League (SPL) clubs holding permits to operate jackpot machines to remain vigilant in their operations.

This comes after The Straits Times reported on Monday that a female employee from Hougang United - one of six SPL clubs running such operations - had been charged in court for allegedly misappropriating $278,200 from their clubhouse operations.

In response to ST's queries, an MHA spokesman said: "Following the fund misappropriation case at Hougang United Football Club, MHA has reminded all permit holders to be vigilant in their overall governance, processes and procedures, including maintaining accountability and checks and balances in their financial matters."

To operate fruit machines, clubs need to be granted a permit under the Private Lotteries Act, which is to be renewed annually provided a host of conditions are met.

One such condition is that clubs are required to open and maintain a separate bank account for jackpot revenue and maintain proper accounting records in that account.

Others include applying social safeguards, such as not allowing anyone under the age of 21 to enter the fruit-machine room, and installing closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras to provide continuous recording of activities in the room.

Permits issued to clubs may be revoked if there are breaches of any of these conditions.

Presently, six of nine SPL clubs - Hougang, Albirex Niigata, Balestier Khalsa, Geylang International, Home United and Warriors FC - run jackpot operations at their respective clubhouses.

  • 6 of 9

  • Singapore Premier League clubs running jackpot operations at their clubhouses.

Depending on the size of their clubhouse operations, they can hold a few hundred thousand dollars in cash for winner payouts.

Clubs ST spoke to said that, in addition to applying MHA guidelines, they also have stringent standard operating procedures to prevent the misappropriation of cash, or detect it if it happens.

Home, who run 23 machines at their clubhouse at the Bishan Sports Hall, conduct regular audits and surprise checks on employees.

Said a club spokesman: "We have in place a stringent system of checks and balances such as two-factor authentication, segregation of duties and daily report requirement for cash management.

"These initiatives are complemented by regular audits as well as surprise checks conducted."

Balestier, who operate eight jackpot machines at the Toa Payoh Stadium next to the club's administration office, keep a comparatively small sum of cash for payouts.

"The cashier's safe has a maximum of only $10,000 for daily operations," said club chairman S. Thavaneson.

"If there is a request by the cashier for additional cash as a result of large payouts, the club general manger will issue additional cash after verifying the payouts during the day."

"All cash balances, payouts, cash book are checked and reconciled at the end of each working day by the general manager," he added.

"Any discrepancy is immediately investigated and either corrected or reported to management for further action."

ST had reported that Malaysian Tean Tai Tee, the Hougang employee who was arrested and charged in court with one count of criminal breach of trust for having allegedly misappropriated $278,200, can be jailed for up to 15 years, and fined if convicted.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 28, 2019, with the headline 'Jackpot funds need strict checks: MHA'. Print Edition | Subscribe