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Seven clubs told to wind down jackpot operations by April 2018

SINGAPORE — A fifth of the 82 clubs running jackpot machines here has been affected by a government crackdown on operators of such facilities, with tightened regulations for fruit machines kicking in earlier this month.

Seven clubs told to wind down jackpot operations by April 2018

A fifth of the 82 clubs running jackpot machines here has been affected by a government crackdown on operators of such facilities, with tightened regulations for fruit machines kicking in earlier this month. TODAY file photo.

SINGAPORE — A fifth of the 82 clubs running jackpot machines here has been affected by a government crackdown on operators of such facilities, with tightened regulations for fruit machines kicking in earlier this month.

According to a statement from the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) on Tuesday (Nov 21), seven clubs have not met the criteria to operate fruit machines, and they have been given six-month interim permits to wind down their jackpot operations by the end of April 2018.

Gombak United Football Club (GUFC), Tanjong Pagar United Football Club (TPUFC) and Singapore Xin Hua Sports Club confirmed that they are among the seven affected, and TODAY understands that Tiong Bahru Football Club (TBFC) — which saw its clubhouse raided by the police in April — is also on the list.

The MHA confirmed on Tuesday that 65 clubs have been issued permits to continue their jackpot operations, and it is understood that 10 clubs did not resubmit their applications for permits.

A review of jackpot operations at clubs was announced during the MHA’s Committee of Supply debate last year as the Ministry sought to ensure that clubs operate fruit machines only to supplement recreational facilities such as karaoke and a gym, rather than have them as a primary operation.

It also said then that a number of clubs had made slots their dominant offering, which required a tightening of criteria for jackpot permits.

The new measures announced in July included: Reducing the quota for fruit machines, raising the minimum age for entry to jackpot rooms from 18 to 21, and limiting the operations hours of the facilities.

The restrictions would see the 1,900 jackpot machines across 82 clubs going down by a-third within two years, said the MHA.

Clubs with jackpot operations came under scrutiny this year after three local football clubs, Woodlands Wellington, Hougang United and TBFC, were raided by the police.

This was after national sports governing body Sport Singapore filed a police report against TBFC for suspected misuse of club funds, as well as a purported attempt by a senior club official to obstruct the completing of audits of the S.League’s sit-out clubs.

TBFC and Hougang chairman Bill Ng, his wife Bonnie Wong, FAS general secretary Winston Lee and former FAS president Zainudin Nordin were subsequently arrested.

Details that emerged from the case also shocked members of the fraternity, as TBFC was found to have earned S$37 million from its clubhouse operations while spending just S$169,000 on its football team, which plays in the amateur National Football League.

S-League sit-out clubs GUFC and TPUFC have submitted their appeals to the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) to be included in the S-League, while Singapore Xin Hua Sports Club, which operates 20 jackpot machines, will also be sending an appeal to the police.

TPUFC chairman Edward Liu is hopeful that its appeal to the FAS will be successful, which could pave the way for it to retain its jackpot operations. Mr Liu told TODAY that while the club was not given an official explanation by the police, he believed that Tanjong Pagar United was not issued a permit to continue operating the jackpot machines as it had been sitting out the S-League since 2015 after chalking up a deficit of a “few hundred thousand dollars”.

The club currently has 18 jackpot machines that generate between S$250,000 to S$300,000 annually, and Mr Liu said the operations bring in a “substantial sum” that is invested back into football activities.

He also pointed out that Tanjong Pagar United had started off with a social mission to help underprivileged youths, and that it was unfair to associate the club with new outfits that “came in the last few years and obtained the license to run jackpot machines.”

“Practically all football clubs depend on jackpot machines for their main revenue stream,” said Mr Liu.

“You must look at the background of the club… We are not operating in the best of (financial) environments at the moment, so we must be realistic (and find various ways) to raise money.”

He also added that TPUFC will look into organising a golf tournament or film premiere to raise funds for the club.

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