While there are no locally licensed online gambling operators, Singaporean gambling laws also do not sanction the tens of thousands of citizens who visit foreign casino sites. In fact, such access has been generally trouble free for both players and operators.
This may come to an end next year, according to the government’s announced intent to curb such activities.
The effort to discourage locals from playing at foreign online casinos in Singapore mirrors the regulations in force for brick-and-mortar establishments, which only tourists may play at freely, while Singaporeans must pay a daily entrance fee.
It is not yet clear what the government can do against foreign operators that provide access to internet casinos and online sportsbooks in Singapore, as many countries have already tried and failed at this, due to legal and technological limitations.
Still, S Iswaran, Singapore’s Second Minister for Home Affairs said on Friday that the country would likely implement new online gambling regulations, aimed at managing the so-called “social risks”.
“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. Therefore, the Government is studying measures that can be taken against online gambling, and to restrict access to, and patronage of, online gambling platforms,” said Iswaran.
He also admitted 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.”
Some experts are doubtful about these efforts and their possible outcome.
Speaking of the legal reservations, Bryan Tan of the local Pinsent Masons affiliate law firm said that “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.”
“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,” added Tan.