The Workers’ Party notes with concern the applications from Singapore Pools and Singapore Turf Club (STC) to launch online betting services.
There are no lack of legal gambling venues in Singapore, including the two casinos and hundreds of outlets accepting bets for Singapore Pools and STC.
When the government decided to clamp down on remote gambling in 2014, it cited concerns about addictive behaviour and easy access to these games. Should the Government approve their applications, Singapore Pools and STC will have 24/7 virtual betting outlets available in almost every home and mobile device.
This convenience may encourage Singaporeans to take up the habit and possibly become a gateway to more serious gambling. The social costs of gambling on families are well documented, and the number of problem gambling cases in Singapore has been on the rise.
It makes little sense for the government to close one door on remote gambling in order to “protect young persons and other vulnerable persons”, while opening another door that exposes them to the ills of gambling in their homes.
During the second reading of the Remote Gambling Bill in 2014, the Government rejected the Workers’ Party call to send the Remote Gambling Bill – specifically the clauses that dealt with exemptions – to a Select Committee of Parliament for further scrutiny and oversight. Nonetheless, the Government committed itself to step up public education and awareness efforts with a specific focus on online gambling. However, as of today, it remains unclear what are the Government’s specific plans and strategies to address the negative effects of online gambling, especially on young and vulnerable persons.
The WP’s 2015 Manifesto contained five proposals to fight problem gambling, including the complete prohibition of remote and online gambling with no exemptions allowed. Exempting Singapore Pools and STC will undermine the government’s motivations for banning remote gambling in the first place.
We oppose the granting of exemptions to any organisation to operate remote and online betting services and we call on the government to reject these applications.
The Workers’ Party
27 September 2016