Singapore Might Ban Remote Gaming, Including Online Poker

Although Singapore is home to a thriving land casino industry worth around six billion dollars, the country is not comfortable about legalizing online poker. According to a report published in The Diplomat, the country plans to ban all varieties of remote gambling, including online casino, online poker, and mobile gambling.

Speaking at a symposium on Casino Regulations and Crime held recently, S. Iswaran, Second Minister for Home Affairs of Singapore said: “Remote gambling gives us cause for concern [because] is ubiquitously and easily accessible through the Internet and mobile applications, especially by a younger and more tech-savvy generation. The nature and design of the games, especially poker and casino-type games, lend themselves to repetitive play and addictive behavior.”

Singapore intends to block all existing gaming sites and to prevent its land casino operators from launching online gaming businesses. Simultaneously, the government has also suggested that it approves the idea of a tightly regulated online gaming industry. Singapore’s remote gaming industry is estimated to generate $375 million in revenue annually.

The government official further said: “From a law and order perspective, remote gambling operations can potentially become a source or conduit of funds for other illegal activities and syndicated crime. These operators are beyond our jurisdiction and they operate without restrictions or limitations on the types of games they can offer or the promotions and advertising they undertake.”

Analysts predict that Singapore’s remote gaming industry with grow at the rate of six to seven percent every year, partly because of the rising popularity of tablets and smart phones.

Singapore’s Ministry for Home Affairs (MFA) commissioned a survey of around 1000 users of the Internet in Singapore. According to the results of this survey, one-third of the respondents said that they had played real money games at least once during the last year. Fifty-eight percent of those who took part in remote gaming are men, and 64 percent of them are in between the ages of 25 and 44.

However, the statistics presented by the National Council for Problem Gambling in Singapore, following a survey conducted in 2011, hardly resemble the above figures. According to the results of the 2011 survey, only one percent of the respondents said that they gambled online.

The Ministry of Home Affairs does not want to completely eradicate remote gambling. The government of Singapore is currently considering the pros and cons of the regulatory system governing Hong Kong’s remote gaming industry. In other words, the government may permit selected operators to launch online gaming sites in Singapore provided they meet certain strict regulations.

Expressing his views regarding this issue, Bryan Tan, gaming law expert, said: “The Singapore government will probably take inspiration from different models to control remote gambling. The task may be an uphill one considering how connected the country is and the open nature of its payments infrastructure.”

At present, Singapore has two thriving land-based casinos. Anybody in Singapore who wants to play for real money at these casinos are required to pay $80 in taxes to the government.

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