Singapore football clubs told to end jackpot operations by end-Oct: report

Singapore Premier League clubs have been told to cease jackpot operations. (PHOTOS: Yahoo News Singapore/Reuters)
Singapore Premier League clubs have been told to cease jackpot operations. (PHOTOS: Yahoo News Singapore/Reuters)

SINGAPORE — Jackpot operations by football clubs - a major revenue stream for many Singapore Premier League (SPL) clubs since the league's inception in 1996 - have been told to cease by the end of October.

According to The Straits Times' report on Tuesday (4 October), the SPL clubs were informed of the move on 15 September.

Of the eight current clubs in the league, five run such jackpot operations. The three sides that do not are the Young Lions, the Lion City Sailors - Singapore's first privatised football club - and Tanjong Pagar United, whose jackpot licence was not renewed when they rejoined in the league in 2020 after sitting out five seasons.

The Straits Times reported that the move comes as the SPL heads towards privatisation next year, as it will come under the purview of the Unleash the Roar! (UTR) project, which was launched in 2021 to improve Singapore football and get the national side into top-tier competitions.

Sources told the national broadsheet newspaper that the UTR committee plans to increase subsidies for the club for the next five years, with jackpot earnings not longer viable from next year.

Currently, the clubs are subsidised at $800,000 annually, and The Straits Times reported that there is a suggestion to raise the amount by 80 to 100 per cent.

Regulations first tightened following 2017 raids

The latest development comes after the Ministry of Home Affairs tightened regulations around jackpot operations of local clubs following several raids in 2017.

The clubhouses of Hougang United, Woodlands Wellington - which was sitting out the professional league - and amateur side Tiong Bahru FC were raided in the lead-up to the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) elections that year.

It was later revealed that Tiong Bahru had pulled in a staggering $36.8 million in 2016.

Following the raids, Tiong Bahru, Woodlands and another football club, Sinchi, were ordered to cease their jackpot operations by end of 2019. Other clubs were also instructed to reduce their jackpot machines to a maximum of 15 in their clubhouses.

According to The Straits Times, Hougang, Geylang International and Albirex Niigata currently own the maximum number of machines. Tampines Rovers have 13, while Balestier Khalsa have eight.

The national broadsheet reported that clubs with the maximum number of jackpot machines enjoy takings of nearly $500,000 annually. This does not include expenses such as rent and wages, which differ from club to club.

SPL clubs operate on a budget of about between $1.2 million and $1.5 million, with about $800,000 of that coming in the form of subsidies, a portion of which is tied to key performance indicators.

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