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Speech by Mrs Lim Hwee Hua, Senior Minister of State for Finance and Transport on The Singapore Totalisator Board (Amendment) Bill 2008, Monday, 21 July 2008, 3.15pm at Parliament

21 Jul 2008

Mr Speaker, Sir, I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a Second time".

2. Today, all forms of gambling in Singapore are prohibited except for selected products offered by the Singapore Totalisator Board and its two agents, Singapore Turf Club and Singapore Pools. While gambling is not an activity that we want to encourage, it is also not something that we can wish away. Imposing a complete ban on gambling will only drive the industry underground and profit the illegal operators.

3. Our approach has therefore been to allow a limited range of gambling products in a controlled environment, with appropriate safeguards for the vulnerable groups. Together with sustained enforcement action against illegal operators and continuing efforts to raise public awareness of the ills of gambling, we can minimise social concerns. The Singapore Totalisator Board has been using and will continue to use the gambling proceeds to fund programmes and projects for the social good.

4. The amendments to the Singapore Totalisator Board Act seek to achieve three objectives. First, to allow the Singapore Turf Club more operational flexibility so as to combat illegal horse betting. Second, to provide the Ministry greater flexibility to update the gambling advertising regulations. And third, to strengthen governance at the Singapore Totalisator Board.

5. Sir, let me now highlight the key changes.

Moving the Singapore Totalisator Scheme out of the Subsidiary Legislation

6. The first change relates to the removal of the Singapore Totalisator Scheme from the subsidiary legislation under the Act. The Scheme governs the administrative and operational aspects of horse racing and betting, such as race fixtures, admissions to the racecourse, and bet types.

7. Currently, any variation to the Scheme must be approved by the Minister and published in the Gazette. By removing the Scheme from the subsidiary legislation, and having it administered by the Turf Club under a private contractual arrangement with the Totalisator Board, the Turf Club will be able to respond better to challenges posed by the illegal operators by changing their betting rules and bet types. The Turf Club will still need to seek regulatory approval for the introduction of new gambling products or changes to regulatory conditions such as age limit.

8. This approach is consistent with practices in other jurisdictions such as Hong Kong, UK and Western Australia. It is also consistent with the treatment of operational rules governing lottery games and football betting run by Singapore Pools. Clauses 2b to 8, 10 and 12 of the Bill provide for this change.

Transferring Advertising Regulations from main Act to Subsidiary Legislation

9. The second change relates to the transfer of advertising regulations from the main Act to the Subsidiary Legislation. The Act currently only allows the Turf Club to publish certain information in the newspapers. This includes the hours of business, address and telephone number of Turf Club's betting outlets, and the names of the race meetings. The Act does not cover advertising by Singapore Pools and the Totalisator Board.

10. By removing the advertising regulations from the main Act, and empowering the Minister to make subsidiary legislation on advertising, the regulations can be updated more expeditiously, in response to changes in the operating and social environment. We will adopt a balanced approach, allowing the Turf Club some room to enhance awareness of their products and channels so as to divert demand away from the illegal operators, while ensuring sufficient safeguards to protect the youth and other vulnerable groups. We will also extend the regulations to Singapore Pools and the Totalisator Board.

11. This is similar to the approach taken for the Casino Control Act. Clauses 2a, 11, 13 and 15 of the Bill provide for this change.

Increasing the Quorum at Board Meetings

12. Third, the Bill increases the quorum at Board meetings from three members to a majority of the members to ensure majority representation and sound governance at the Totalisator Board. Clause 16 of the Bill provides for this.

Other changes

13. The other changes include removing the need for the Turf Club to seek Minister's approval for by-laws controlling admission to the Turf Club, which are operational in nature; allowing any public officer authorised by the Minister to compound prescribed offences; and consequential amendments to the Betting Act and Common Gaming Houses Act.

14. Sir, I beg to move.