Nominated Member of Parliament (NMP) Mark Chay recently asked the Minister for Culture, Community and Youth (MCCY) Edwin Tong the rationale for ceasing jackpot operations for Singapore Premier League clubs (SPL), which had come into effect earlier this month.
Minister Tong who is the former vice-president of the Football Association of Singapore did not reply to NMP Chay in Parliament, but instead, the Ministry provided a written reply.
The statement said that in July 2017, the Ministry of Home Affairs tightened the regulatory regime for jackpot (fruit machine) operations to curb its availability to strengthen social safeguards against gambling.
“In 2018, the clubs were notified of a transition period, during which time they were required to reduce their fruit machines operations to below a quota of 15 machines by November 2019. On this basis, their permits were then renewed for a year, with no assurance of any subsequent renewal. On 1 November 2022, the permits ceased altogether,” said the Ministry.
“Under this regime, clubs would only be allowed to provide fruit machines as an ancillary offering to their members, within a wider suite of substantive recreational and social facilities and services, and not a major offering in itself.”
However, football clubs that are operating fruit machines in their clubhouses did not meet this revised criteria as they did not provide any other recreational offerings other than fruit machines as their main services. It was found that some of these clubs had a high dependence on fruit machines for their revenue.
“With the new rules, SPL clubs would have to give up their fruit machines operations completely. However, the clubs were given a grace period within which to gradually wind down their fruit machines operations. This was to assist the clubs, so that they did not have to completely cease fruit machines operations immediately,” added the written reply.
Prior to the cessation of jackpot operations, only eight of the current SPL clubs had such services in their clubhouses. Those without fruit machines are Lion City Sailors, Tanjong Pagar and the Young Lions.
According to a report by The Straits Times, some clubs such as Albirex Niigata (S), Hougang United and Geylang International previously had about 13 fruit machines while Balestier Khalsa had eight. The clubs reportedly made about $500,000 annually in revenue.
With the fruit machines now gone for the professional football clubs in Singapore, NMP Chay asked the Ministry whether they will consider providing subsidies to mitigate the loss of income.
“In addition to the gradual wind-down, to further mitigate the impact of the FMs cessation on the clubs’ core football operations, Sport Singapore will be providing support to eligible SPL clubs in the short-term. SportSG will also be working with the Football Association of Singapore and the clubs to develop a more financially sustainable operating model going forward.”
Under the Gambling Control Act which came into force on 1 Aug 2022, any person who wishes to operate a gaming machine room would need to apply for a license from the Gambling Regulatory Authority of Singapore and meet the licensing criteria.
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