Legal expert not surprised by new Singapore online gaming regulations

Legal expert not surprised by new Singapore online gaming regulations

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Bryan Tan, a partner in international law firm Pinsent Masons, has told TotallyGaming.com that the decision to implement new restrictions on online gambling in Singapore was not “unexpected”.

The county’s Ministry of Affairs yesterday (Tuesday) confirmed new regulations for the online and phone gambling markets that will come into effect next year after Parliament passed a new Remote Gambling Bill.

The Act will criminalise all forms of remote gambling in the country but will allow for the exemption of certain operators to continue to offer regulated Singapore-based remote gambling services.

Operators that are exempt from the ban will be subject to strict conditions such as operating on a not-for-profit basis and imposing social safeguards.

Tan said that although the decision to implement the new regulations had happened quickly, it was not an unexpected move. 

“The initial reaction when this came out in November 2013 was that the 2014 Fifa World Cup was the target, but the tournament came and went without anything happening,” Tan told TotallyGaming.com.

“Then the bill was announced in September and we were expecting it to be passed at year end or early next year, so what happened yesterday was rather quick, but I would not say it was unexpected.”

Tan said that the Ministry of Affairs is likely to have acted due to the increase in online gambling activity in Singapore.

“We suspect, and we have no empirical evidence for this, that the amount of online gambling has been increasing rapidly to the extent that it can no longer be ignored as it was previously, as the laws had not been updated for decades,” Tan said. 

“Therefore, measures have been taken to now effectively eradicate all forms of remote gambling save for what can obtain exemptions. The exemptions are undoubtedly very limited.”

The Act was passed despite a number of MPs complaining that the measures should be extended to implement a complete ban on remote gambling in Singapore. 

Tan said that this criticism, as well as uncertainty over the position of casual games in the online gambling market, could still cause problems for regulators in Singapore.

“There is some concern... that those with certain business models, such as in-app purchases, would be caught by the wording of the Act as well,” Tan said.  

“There were assurances made in Parliament that this was not the intent, but we note that the news reports also said that this area of social gaming might change to necessitate it being covered by the law.

“While the actual Parliamentary reports are not yet, this does present some uncertainty for the sector as to the intent of the Act.”

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