Singapore criminalises online gambling – who is affected?
Jan29

Singapore criminalises online gambling – who is affected?

From Monday, 2 February 2015, the full force of Singapore’s extensive new Remote Gambling Act will be felt, both inside and outside of Singapore. The Act will criminalise the entire spectrum of remote gambling activities. The restrictions are extremely broad and will be felt by operators, agents, brokers, service providers, broadcasters, advertising networks, payment processors, financial institutions, ISPs – and, of course players, with potential sanctions including site blocking, payment blocking, fines and prison terms. As with any new law, particularly one that is so broad in scope, there are a number of grey areas, so we look here at some of the implications for different categories of individual and organisation within the remote gaming ecosystem. What does the Remote Gambling Act mean for…? Gambling operators based outside of Singapore Operators based outside of Singapore will need to take operational measures to comply, otherwise they risk falling foul of the extra-territorial measures of the Act that apply to services with a “Singapore customer link”. The long arm of the new law actually requires operators based overseas to make operational changes in order to comply. These include informing prospective customers that Singapore law prohibits the provision of the service to Singapore-based users, updating terms and conditions and taking “such other measures as far as reasonably practicable to ensure that the service did not, or could not reasonably have, a Singapore-customer link”. It remains unclear at this time whether geoblocking will be a minimum expected requirement. With extra-territorial laws, enforcement is always the challenge, which is why the Government is introducing payment blocking (via local financial institutions) and site blocking (via local ISPs) as part of the Act, with these measures to kick in immediately from Monday, 2 February. The MHA is reportedly preparing a list of online gambling sites to target. The Government has also indicated that it could seek the extradition to Singapore of individuals involved in the operation of offshore remote gambling services that target Singapore, although one would expect that to be reserved for very serious cases. Gambling operators based in Singapore From 2 February, it will be illegal to run a “Singapore-based remote gambling service”. Put simply, if the service is based in Singapore then the rules apply, wherever the customers are based. It does not matter whether the service targets Singapore customers or foreign customers, so geoblocking Singapore will not be a workaround. A service will be viewed as a “Singapore-based remote gambling service” if: (a)    The service is provided in the course of carrying on a business in Singapore; (b)   The central management and control of the service is in Singapore; or (c)    Where the...

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Singapore Government to Regulate Online Gambling
Nov28

Singapore Government to Regulate Online Gambling

It looks like Singapore is going to regulate online gambling. Today, the government announced plans to make online gambling services illegal, unless there are specific exemptions. The majority of the government announcement focused on how new laws would give enforcement agencies the powers necessary to act against the operators of online gambling services, and how website, payment and advertisement-blocking technologies will restrict the use of these services. This is in line with previous government announcements on the subject, which have tended to be about protecting the vulnerable from the risk of addiction. However, it is the “unless there are specific exemptions” part of the announcement that the gambling industry will be focusing on. It suggests that the government is considering a limited licensing model, such that a limited number of operators, subject to strict licensing conditions, may be permitted to operate online gambling services. In other words, industry will see at least a potential opportunity to operate legitimate services in Singapore. The legal position as it stands today is somewhat unclear. There are no specific laws to regulate online gambling in Singapore and there is considerable scope for uncertainty because the relevant laws were drafted pre-internet. The general consensus is that the operation of online gambling services targeted at Singapore citizens is likely to fall foul of the existing laws but there is no express law to that effect. The laws are unlikely to apply to (or at least be enforced against) offshore operators not based in Singapore. The potential prize for operators of these services is significant. It is estimated that the size of the remote gambling market in Singapore could already be US $300 million, and it is expected to grow at a rate of around 6-7 per cent annually (although the position will of course depend to a large extent on the approach to regulation). Surveys carried out by the Home Affairs Ministry suggest that almost one in three internet users had gambled online in the last year. It now seems that the government has recognized the need to regulate to bring certainty to the legal and regulatory position. From here, there will be a public consultation exercise, with various stakeholders consulted (likely, one assumes, to include online and land-based operators, ISPs and payment services providers) before any new law is put in place. However, things could move quickly and it seems certain that Singapore has now taken its first big step towards regulating online gambling.   Featured Image: Singapore by Luca...

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