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New online betting regulations being developed in Singapore

Foreign-based gambling operators have been advised to keep abreast of Singaporean Government plans to adopt new rules to regulate online betting.13 May 2013

Gambling law expert Bryan Tan of Pinsent Masons MPillay, the Singapore joint law venture partner of Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind Out-Law.com, said that the issue was "an area for gambling operators to keep tabs on".

On Friday Singapore's Second Minister for Home Affairs, S Iswaran, announced that the Singaporean Government was reviewing how to "restrict access to, and patronage of, online gambling platforms" in a study it expects to complete before the end of 2013.

Tan said that it is currently "unclear" as to whether existing gambling laws in Singapore apply to online betting but that it was as yet not evident how the Singaporean Government plans to address the issue.

"The Betting Act and the Common Gaming Houses Act stem back to the pre-independence days and there is some uncertainty over their extra-territorial effect," Tan said. "Singaporeans, like most Asians, are fervent gamblers and the fear is that unregulated gambling may result in social problems as well as illegal activities. Details of the regulations have not yet been introduced, but it will be interesting to see whether these are targeted at the problem or they adopt a sledgehammer approach."

In a speech Iswaran said that the Singaporean Government was proposing to set new regulations to govern online gambling in a bid to combat specific "social risks" associated with the form of betting.

"In Singapore, we remain resolute in our commitment to especially protect minors and vulnerable groups in our society from the harms of gambling, be it terrestrial or virtual," he said. "Therefore, the Government is studying measures that can be taken against online gambling, and to restrict access to, and patronage of, online gambling platforms." 

"We recognise that there are practical challenges to this effort, not least because technological change will render complete eradication difficult. Our officials are working with industry experts to study the issues and learn from other jurisdictions, in order to formulate a strategy that is effective, relevant and sustainable. The study should be concluded by the end of the year," the Minister added.

Iswaran said that the online gambling market was worth an estimated $400 billion and "is expected to grow at an annual rate of 9%", with "significant growth opportunity" stemming from the Asian market. He said online gambling is "potentially more addictive" than traditional forms of betting and that it is more accessible to "the young and vulnerable".

"These risks will likely be magnified as the technology supporting online gambling further evolves," Iswaran said.