Screenshot from Singapore Pools website

The Singapore Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has approved the legalisation of online gambling by exempting the government-linked gambling houses, Singapore Pools and Singapore Turf Club, from the Remote Gambling Act. This move will allow the two companies to open up Singapore’s first legalised online gambling websites from Oct 25 onwards.

The MHA claimed that banning online gambling will only result in driving remote gambling underground, “making it harder to detect”. The Singapore government also claimed that “safeguards” will be put in place – similar that to the Singapore Casino.

However the move was met with strong opposition from different sector of societies, and among them, the National Council of Churches Singapore (NCSS). The NCSS yesterday (Oct 5) made a formal appeal to the Singapore government opposing the legalisation of online betting in Singapore. Representing more than 250 churches, the NCSS said the government’s decision to allowing online betting will result in more social problems:

“The Government is sending confusing and conflicting signals…the Remote Gambling Act, which outlawed all online and phone betting activities, was passed by Parliament just two years ago. (We) are concerned about the adverse personal, familial and social impact of online gambling, and listed studies highlighting how problem gambling affects the family, productivity at work, and also leads to depression, anxiety and suicidal tendencies in pathological gamblers. Internet gambling is also responsible for the increased incidence of underage gambling.

The Council is deeply concerned that with the legalisation of online gambling, these serious social problems will be further exacerbated, despite stringent safeguards and controls. The NCCS believes that removing the temptation of gambling from living rooms and work spaces will ultimately strengthen the fabric of our society for generations to come. We affirm the national ethos of working hard for the quality of life one aspires to as a fundamental societal value which has brought Singapore to where she is today.”

Due to Singapore’s slowing economy, the Singapore government has to look out for alternative avenues to get more taxes. Former Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew strongly opposed legalisation of gambling and Singapore did not see any gambling houses until his son Lee Hsien Loong took over from 2004.