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Better to have controlled outlet valve to manage online betting: Tan Chuan-Jin

SINGAPORE — Other jurisdictions that have exempted some operators from a ban on online betting services have not seen their problem-gambling situation worsen, said Minister for Social and Family Development Tan Chuan-Jin on Thursday (Oct 6), in response to concerns raised in the wake of a similar move here.

Minister for Social and Family Development Tan Chuan-Jin. TODAY file photo

Minister for Social and Family Development Tan Chuan-Jin. TODAY file photo

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SINGAPORE — Other jurisdictions that have exempted some operators from a ban on online betting services have not seen their problem-gambling situation worsen, said Minister for Social and Family Development Tan Chuan-Jin on Thursday (Oct 6), in response to concerns raised in the wake of a similar move here.

While he shared these concerns, Mr Tan reiterated that having “a controlled outlet valve” as part of the regime to manage online gambling would be more effective, given that there would be punters who would try to circumvent measures that block access to illegal gambling websites.

Mr Tan said that Hong Kong and Norway also have exempt operators, and even though their regimes are not as strict as Singapore’s, studies show that it “hasn’t exacerbated the situation at all, so that’s quite encouraging”.

“I wish that we could solve the problem just by having a robust set of laws on its own, but we don’t (think) that it will,” said Mr Tan in an interview with Channel NewsAsia.

“Because people (gamblers) will still be there and they’re not protected. So, this is the approach that we are taking to make sure that this problem doesn’t proliferate and get worse.”

Last week, Singapore Pools and Singapore Turf Club were cleared to provide online betting services, which have been outlawed since February last year.

The move drew concerns, including from the National Council of Churches of Singapore on Wednesday, which stressed the ill effects of online gambling, such as depression and anxiety, the impact on the individual and families, and a rise in underage gambling.

In his interview, Mr Tan said he “totally (shares) their concerns” but pointed out that the authorities had to look out for those who want to continue gambling online, even illegally.

He also noted that “a lot of criminal elements are associated with illegal gambling online”.

He added: “When we have a controlled outlet valve that is provided for by the law ... instead of being in the illegal sites, (these individuals) can perhaps be in a safer space where crime is removed from the action, and safety measures are put in place.”

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