Singapore Pools offering online betting

From ‘Greater responsible gambling efforts needed if online betting is allowed’, 12 June 2016, ST Forum

(Woon Wee Min): In the light of laws passed to curb remote gambling, it is difficult to understand why the authorities are even considering granting Singapore Pools permission to offer online betting (“Singapore Pools still waiting for nod on online betting“; May 31).

If online betting is indeed going to be offered, more care must be taken to promote responsible gambling.

Systems and processes must be put in place to allow self-exclusion by vulnerable customers and impose auto-exclusion of minors.

…It behoves Singapore Pools and the authorities to do more to ensure that the availability of online betting, should it become reality, does not exacerbate the issue of problem gambling in Singapore.

The idea of remote Singapore Pools gaming has been mooted for more than 10 years, with some punters suggesting that AXN machines allow betting, in addition to electronic scratch ticket machines which were launched in the heartlands in 2010. Queues at the Pools have become somewhat of a heartland icon, and while operators have argued that going online is part of cost-cutting and shortage of manpower, the sheer timing of this news, in the throes of Euro 2016 fever and the reported dismissal of RWS staff, suggests that this is more than just an act of convenience, but a shot in the arm of Singapore’s ailing gaming industry.

The only difference is that instead of siphoning off VIP high rollers from China, we’re attempting to recoup our losses from a struggling casino (oops, I mean INTEGRATED RESORT) by sucking money from our local gamblers instead. I have always questioned the rationale of having two casinos since the IRs were established 8 years ago. Now not only do we have to worry about the social cost of gambling addiction and family wreckage, but the additional cost of unemployment in the face of RWS axing staff. MBS may be better off, being regarded as more a tourist destination than a casino per se. Until of course, aliens decide to blow it to smithereens.

If Singapore Pools goes online, it  may well spell the end of queues, but without the proper safeguards while hiding behind this guise of ‘legal gaming’, it may make our gambling problems worse. Now you can spend $100 to lose money at our legalised/licensed gambling dens, or just lose money without stepping out of your house in front of a computer or from your phone while shitting in the toilet.

Thankfully, not all in Parliament agree that certain operators should be exempted from the remote gambling laws. In 2014, MP Christopher De Souza said:

On one hand, you have enforcement and punishment which rightly say remote gambling should be deterred. Yet, we are also saying there can be a medium through which remote gambling is legitimate

Denise ‘Walking Time Bomb’ Phua:

If, indeed, we so strongly believe remote gambling is harmful and does no good to either the people or nation, then are we legitimising the act of gambling and breeding its acceptance by legally providing for exempt licensed operators in (the Remote Gambling Bill)?”

So that was in 2014. In 2 years the context has changed. Exemption is not only to ‘create an ecosystem to minimise law and order concerns and social consequences (criminal syndicates)’, as S Iswaran said in the defence. Today, with RWS hitting the red, an Internet for restricted gaming will probably breed an ‘ecosystem’ for gamblers to get their fix at the click of a button, should they not wish to head to Sentosa or MBS and throw away $100.

Let us not pretend that the Pools and Singapore Turf Club are just entertainment outlets for uncles and aunties to while their time away. It’s practically a legal casino conglomerate stripped of its glitz and glamour serving as a source of government revenue (to a tune of 2.3 billion over 5 years), at the expense of our citizens. With the fall of RWS and Pools riding on a wishy-washy piece of legislation, threatening to turn Internet gaming as Singaporeans know it into a state-endorsed duopoly, preying on the whims and hopes of people who could barely cough out the $100 entrance fee trying their luck, so will more drown in it.


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