By: Yoong Siew Wah
It has now become a comic opera with the introduction of the Remote Gambling Act (RGA) to curb online gambling and the PAP flummoxing act of granting exemption to the Singapore Pools and the Singapore Turf Club from the RGA to operate online gambling legally.
As the National Council of Churches Singapore (NCCS) has voiced its concern that the move is sending “confusing and conflicting signals” given that the RGA, which kicked in last year in February, banned all other forms of online betting, it’s quite significant that the Minister for Social & Family Development Tan Chuan-Jin went to great length trying to vindicate the PAP Government untenable action which the public could find hard to accept while avoiding answering directly to the NCCS concern.
This is because the PAP Government is not comfortable in denying that it is sending “confusing and conflicting signals”.
That the problem of online gambling is actively engaging the mind of the public for the social ill-effects that it will bring in its wake can in a way be reflected by the intense debate in Parliament by mainly PAP lawmakers. One pertinent question asked is whether allowing the two operators to launch online gambling services is not tantamount to encouraging more people to go online to gamble by making it legitimate.
Again Minister Tan Chuan-Jin could only give a non-committal answer. Hong Kong and the United Kingdom were quoted to show their relentless efforts in curbing online gambling.
The fact remains that Singapore is neither Hongkong nor the United Kingdom and our illegal online punters are quite a determined and elusive category on whom neither the RGA nor the legalised operators could make a dent.
The two legalised operators have not begun their operation and it is still early to assess their effectiveness in curbing illegal online gambling. With the restrictions that they are required to impose on prospective online punters, would it not be reasonable to expect those who are disqualified by the restrictions to resort to illegal online betting?
There is no way the PAP Government can completely curb illegal online gambling and this will be a perennial headache for the PAP until some PAP smart Alec can come out with a panacea to the problem.
Mr. Yoong Siew Wah was the Director of Singapore’s Internal Security Department (ISD) from 1971 to 1974. He was Director of the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB) in the 1960s, and had a distinguished career in the Singapore Special Branch in the 1950s.
The erudite Mr. Yoong, who is in his late eighties, keeps a blog called Singapore Recalcitrant.