SINGAPORE: The government is studying measures that can be taken against online gambling, and to restrict access to -- as well as patronage of -- online gambling platforms. It is working with industry experts to study issues and learn from other jurisdictions to formulate a strategy.
The study is expected to be concluded by the end of 2013.
Second Minister for Home Affairs S Iswaran revealed this at the Casino Regulatory Authority's (CRA) workplan seminar on Friday.
He said: "The global online gambling industry, estimated at US$400 billion in 2011, is expected to grow at an annual rate of nine per cent, with the Asian market representing a significant growth opportunity.
"Online gambling is a new and potentially more addictive form of gambling, with greater access to the young and vulnerable. These risks will likely be magnified as the technology supporting online gambling further evolves."
Mr Iswaran, who is also a Minister in the Prime Minister's Office, said: "In Singapore, there are concerns within the community over the social risks associated with this highly-accessible form of gambling. The government shares these concerns.
"We remain committed to especially protect minors and vulnerable groups in our society from the harms of gambling, be it terrestrial or virtual."
Meanwhile, in a Facebook post, Mr Iswaran said a concerted effort by government agencies and community partners is needed to tackle online gambling on multiple fronts, including public education, engagement and enforcement.
Mr Iswaran said the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) will be working closely with the police, Media Development Authority, Monetary Authority of Singapore and the Ministry of Social and Family Development on the study.
The study will assess the efficacy and feasibility of implementing the measures, and whether it will require amendments to current laws or even new legislation.
As to whether the CRA will be responsible for regulating online gambling, Mr Iswaran it is too early to draw conclusions as to what role CRA or any other agency will play in this effort.
He said MHA would want to give its officials time to study the matter thoroughly and consult relevant stakeholders before proposing specific action.
Experts have said that tackling online gambling will be no easy feat.
Gerald Goh, deputy director of THK Problem Gambling Recovery Centre, said: "A lot of people play these games on their own computer or on their own mobile devices, so obviously it is very difficult for family members to detect until they see the credit card bill.
"I guess from the top level, the blocking of certain IP addresses will be very helpful. But the syndicates are very smart in changing their IP addresses as well."
Separately, Mr Iswaran said that while the CRA has done well over the last five years, it needs to keep up with the changing landscape to ensure the gaming industry remains clean and safe.
This includes preventing, and dealing with, casino-related crime.
CRA noted that the incidence of crime in the casinos here is under control.
Over the past three years, crime reported in the casinos made up less than one per cent of overall crime in Singapore.
Since 2010, the casinos have detected and stopped more than 28,000 attempts by minors, and some 15,000 attempts by excluded persons, to enter the casinos.
The CRA will also work with the Home Team Behavioural Sciences Centre to examine the psychological profile of local casino gamblers to develop a more nuanced understanding of gaming behaviour. - CNA/ac/ms
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