Friday 30 January 2015

Remote Gambling Act that takes effect on 2 February 2015 will not affect gaming industry, says MDA

Singapore poised to block all roads to unlicensed gambling websites
By Lim Yi Han and Aw Cheng Wei, The Straits Times, 29 Jan 2015

FROM Monday, punters in Singapore will no longer be able to access a host of unlicensed online gambling sites.

That is when the new remote gambling law, which was passed last October to clamp down on unregulated online betting, takes effect, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) announced yesterday.

It is understood that the ministry has drawn up a list of online sites, including those for sports betting and casino games. Internet service providers will start blocking these sites from Feb 2.

The authorities, however, assured developers of online social games such as Candy Crush that the curbs will not impact them, as long as they do not include facilities which allow players to convert tokens into actual money or prizes in real life.

The online gambling industry here is estimated to have raked in some $500 million last year.

The Remote Gambling Act criminalises a host of remote gambling activities, which includes phone betting. Gamblers may get up to six months in jail or a $5,000 fine, with stiffer penalties for those guilty of luring people under 21.

Internet service providers and financial institutions which fail to abide by a blocking order will face punishment. There is also a ban on online gambling ads.

MHA said those providing remote gambling services have had sufficient notice of the regulations.

Since the law was passed, major foreign online gambling sites such as have already asked Singapore customers to close their accounts. At least three banks here - DBS, OCBC and UOB - have already blocked payments to such sites.

The new law has raised concerns that social games would be hit. But the Media Development Authority said legitimate social media gaming would not be impeded.

Leader-boards which reward top players, or tournaments where players can win prizes or money in real life, will also be allowed, as long as these are not casino-style games.

The Act allows not-for-profit operators here to apply for a remote-gambling licence, with the takings going to social causes. But MHA said it has not received any applications yet. Lottery operator Singapore Pools said yesterday that it was waiting for more details.

Associate Professor Lim Yee Fen of the Nanyang Business School said the curbs are a timely response. "Those who have been banned from casinos are likely to go online to gamble."

Online betting sites blocked as Remote Gambling Act kicks in
List of sites to be regularly reviewed, but details will not be made public: MHA
By Yvonne Lim, TODAY, 3 Feb 2015

Visitors to online gambling sites would have found themselves shut out yesterday after the authorities blocked access to several hundred of them, as laws to curb remote gambling kicked in.

The list of websites to be blocked will be regularly reviewed, but details will not be made public, a Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) spokesperson told TODAY.

“The MHA and the Media Development Authority are working with Internet service providers (ISPs) to ensure that the blocking of websites is implemented smoothly,” the spokesperson said.

As the law came into force yesterday, some regular visitors to remote gambling websites found that they were unable to withdraw money that they had deposited for games on those sites.

A check by TODAY showed that as of 10pm yesterday, some popular betting sites such as and had been blocked. Some other popular sites were still accessible.

The Remote Gambling Act, which was passed in Parliament on Oct 7 last year, outlaws remote gambling services. “It is also an offence under the Act to publish remote gambling service advertisements and promote remote gambling in Singapore. Offending websites will be served notices to remove these materials,” said the MHA spokesperson.

Under the new legislation, it is an offence to gamble in Singapore using remote communication such as via websites or to use a remote gambling service such as mobile apps that are not provided by an exempt operator. Those who break the law may be fined up to S$5,000, or jailed for up to six months or both.

The Association of Banks in Singapore confirmed that banks here had been informed that the Act would come into force yesterday and said it had “ensured compliance with its provisions” after it received orders from the Monetary Association of Singapore (MAS) to do so.

The MAS yesterday ordered all licensed banks, card issuers, holders of stored value facilities and operators of any payment system designated under the Payment Systems (Oversight) Act to block payment orders involving mobile or Internet gambling application or websites.

Financial institutions are not to accept credit or proceeds of credit, any cheques, bank drafts or similar instruments, or make or accept electronic fund transfers or any fund transmissions to or from remote gambling services.

They are also to block payment and prohibit transactions to merchant category codes 7995 MasterCard, 7995 Visa, 7995 UnionPay, 7995 JCB and 7995 Diners.

Meanwhile, StarHub, an ISP here, yesterday told TODAY that it was putting measures in place, in compliance with the new law. However, it was not able to share information on the blocked websites due to confidentiality obligations, said a spokesperson.


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