Singapore bans online gambling

    Singapore has banned online gambling and imposed criminal penalties under provisions of new legislation introduced in Parliament, effectively closing the market to international operators.Under the Remote Gambling Act 2014, players gambling online will be committing a criminal offense. There is also a comprehensive set of preventative measures including website blocking, payment blocking and a ban on advertising.The act aims to “maintain law and order and protect young persons and other vulnerable persons from being harmed or exploited by remote gambling”.Matt Pollins, an Associate in the Singapore office of Olswang Asia LLP, an international law firm specializing in Technology, Media and Telecommunications, said many online companies may abandon Singapore as a market.“It is going to become harder for international operators to target Singapore directly due to payment blocking and site blocking. For these operators, they will perceive Singapore as expressly ‘black’ rather than ‘grey’, as it was before, and I suspect many who still do will stop targeting it altogether.”He noted that there would be some licenses issued to local operators, but all will be discretionary and will have to meet a “public interest” requirement. It seems unlikely that international, for-profits will be able to meet this requirement to the Government’s satisfaction.Those who were hoping for a limited opening up of the market will probably be disappointed.“The one opportunity that international operators will be following up on is the chance of entering into a partnership with Singapore Pools or the Turf Club, since those businesses currently have very limited online gambling experience, software, platforms etc.”Singapore announced late last year that it was planning to regulate the online space, though some companies had hoped that it would bring clarity and include exemptions allowing them to operate.Pollins also called into question the attractiveness of Singapore as a business location. “There is also a question mark for businesses who have considered locating their sales offices or servers in Singapore – to what extent will they be subject to the new rules?” he asked.The bill was tabled Monday and needs to be passed by parliament.