Singapore set to block online gambling sites

Minister in the Prime Minister's Office and Second Minister for Home Affairs S Iswaran said on Thursday that the government is planning to ban remote gambling. (AFP file photo)

Singapore's government plans to ban remote gambling, said Second Minister for Home Affairs S Iswaran on Thursday.
Speaking at a symposium on casino regulation and crime, the minister in the Prime Minister's office said remote gambling, which basically is any form of gambling that takes place over the Internet or communication device, has been gaining popularity in Singapore, alongside its associated risks.
In extending its laws on gambling that are currently in place, the government plans to block access to gambling websites, prevent payments to remote gambling operators and outlaw advertisements promoting remote gambling. Iswaran said.
"While such measures may not be foolproof, they will impede access to remote gambling platforms and send a clear signal of the regulatory stance in Singapore," he pointed out.
In the National Council for Problem Gambling's 2011 survey of gambling participation among the country's general population, just one per cent of respondents said they gambled online, he said.
Yet, the trend is gaining traction, and, based on analyst estimates, the size of the market in Singapore at more than S$376 million will grow between 6 and 7 per cent annually.
"It is ubiquitously and easily accessible through the Internet and mobile applications, especially by a younger and more tech-savvy generation," said Iswaran in his speech, noting that in a recent survey of about 1,000 online users, close to 30 per cent of respondents had gambled remotely at least once in the past year.
Additionally, argues Iswaran, the nature of games like poker and other casino-type games played online lend themselves to repetitive play and addictive behaviour. Online gamblers have poorer self-control, too, and are more likely to gamble more frequently, for a longer period and with more money than planned, he added.
Online gambling could also become a source or be used for other illegal activities and syndicated crime, said Iswaran, who called on heightened international collaboration between regulators and enforcement agencies of various countries.
"These trends in remote gambling illustrate the dynamic nature of the gaming industry, which will continue to evolve and present new challenges for regulators and law enforcers," he said.