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Speech by Mr Heng Swee Keat, Minister for Finance, at Singapore Pools' 50th Anniversary Celebrations on 21 May 2018, 7.45PM at JW Marriott Hotel

21 May 2018

Mr Moses Lee

Chairman, Singapore Totalisator Board

Mr Koh Choon Hui

Chairman, Singapore Pools

Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen.


  1. A very good evening. It is a pleasure to join everyone today to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Singapore Pools.


  2. Earlier on, I had a nice chat with many people who have benefitted from the work of Singapore Pools and Tote Board. I had the chance to meet Mr Bala Subramanion, Mr Wong Lee Hoong, Mr Tan Boen Eng, and Mr Tan Soo Nam.


    History of Singapore Pools – Upholding Pragmatism


  3. Games of chance take place everywhere around the world; Singapore is no exception.In the early days in Singapore, before there was Singapore Pools, punters placed bets with illegal operators and were vulnerable to filching, unfair play and other illicit practices. And the profits from these games of chance went only to these illegal operators. For example, old games such as Chap Ji Kee[1] were popular in back alleys, and illicit mini-casinos sprouted up around the Singapore River and Tanjong Pagar dockyards. At their peak in the 1960s, these operators were estimated to each turn over $300,000 daily, equivalent to over $2 million today[2]!


  4. The question for us then was, recognising that games of chance do indeed take place everywhere, how could we channel the large sums generated out of these games towards uses that could benefit society? In May 1968, Pools was set up as Singapore’s sole legal lottery operator to create a safe space for Singaporeans to participate in a game of chance without being victims of unfair practices; and to allow surpluses to be directed towards meaningful causes for the community.


  5. Thus began Pools’ journey in creating positive and meaningful impact in society.


  6. Pools’ first contribution was towards the construction of Singapore’s first National Stadium, without which, it might not have been possible given the tight fiscal conditions that Singapore then faced.


    1. 18 National Day Parades, 2 Southeast Asian Games (SEA Games) and countless other sporting and non-sporting events were made possible in part due to Pools’ social investment.


  7. Since then, Pools has continued to remain relevant and to review its work even as the gaming landscape evolves.


    1. Pools continues to provide punters with safer options as well as sustain its philanthropic efforts for the community.


    2. Pools has made contributions towards the building of icons of Singapore’s landscape, such as the Indoor Stadium in 1988, and the Esplanade in 1996. These icons have provided a platform for our arts and sports sectors to thrive.


    1. Pools has also been the major supporter of annual nationwide events such as the Chingay Parade, as well as the National Day Parade, that celebrate our multi-cultural diversity and Singaporean identity.


    1. Pools has also been supportive of arts and culture, and sports enriching life in Singapore and building our sense of home.


  8. Donations and contributions were made even more impactful, when in 2004, Pools became a subsidiary under the Singapore Totalisator Board (Tote Board). This allowed for the pooling of betting revenues from Pools and Turf Club, as well as more focus in grant-making.


    1. Together with Singapore Turf Club, surpluses from Pools are consolidated under Tote Board.


    2. These funds have been used to support a wide spectrum of initiatives, ranging from arts and heritage, to sports, education, support for the disabled, and much more. I have just met with some beneficiaries, such as the Metta Welfare Association, which serves the health, education, and social service sectors, as well as the Cerebral Palsy Alliance Singapore, which runs programmes for Persons with Disabilities. Support from Pools bolsters the meaningful work that these and other organisations do, and allows them to make a bigger impact.


    1. I am heartened that many community and ground-up initiatives have been able to run programmes that champion good causes. Using contributions from Pools and Turf Club, Tote Board has led various grant-making initiatives such as the Enabling Lives Initiative[3], and ACE Capstone Leadership Programme for Non-Profits[4], amongst others.


  9. At the same time as creating a safe and trusted environment for its customers, Pools is working to mitigate the ill effects of gaming, via social safeguards to protect the well-being of punters and their loved ones.


    1. For example, responsible play reminders are included in all of its communication channels, and customers are required to set funding and expenditure limits before they can place bets. Only those above the age of 18 are allowed to participate in games, and betting on credit is not allowed.


    2. Pools also works very closely with the Ministry of Social and Family Development to ensure that its customers play responsibly, without jeopardising their own financial position or personal relationships.


  10. In 2012, Pools achieved the highest certification under the World Lottery Association Responsible Gaming Framework, the best standards in the global lottery industry.


    1. This attests to Pools’ good efforts in ensuring that its key operations – which includes game design, marketing and sales, distribution, as well as, staff and customer education – have met stringent international responsible gaming standards.


    1. And Pools was recertified in 2015. This recertification process takes place every 3 years, and I understand that Pools is working hard on making sure they can meet the standards again this year.


  11. Much has changed over the last 50 years – gaming preferences have evolved, and the digital revolution is changing business models. Pools is doing well to build capabilities that keep it relevant, while sustaining its philanthropic efforts.


    1. Not only that, Pools is further innovating ways to deliver more on philanthropy.


    1. In this light, I am happy that Pools is launching iShine Cloud – a non-profit cloud service provider offering integrated sector-specific IT solutions to charity organisations.
      1. The iShine Cloud services will be offered at charity pricing, making this a meaningful effort to achieve economies of scale and keep operating costs low.
      2. This way, charities can level up their digital capabilities, and also better focus on the groups that they serve.


    2. The iShine Cloud was developed in a spirit of collaboration. Pools worked with the National Council for Social Services (NCSS) as the agency overseeing the social service sector, to understand the challenges and needs facing charity organisations, and with technology partners to draw in relevant technology solutions.


    1. It is good that Pools has taken the lead to help develop the digital capabilities of charity organisations.
      1. We need this spirit of sharing and partnership among different sectors, pooling resources and expertise to help one another, to spark positive change and impact in our community.
      2. I am glad that Pools has this spirit, and hope to see Pools continue to foster stronger partnerships with agencies to further enhance the capabilities of the social services sector.


  12. With that, I strongly encourage everyone present tonight, corporates and individuals alike, to channel your time, effort, and funds into giving back to our community, to foster a caring and cohesive Singapore.


    1. And this is a good time to do it.In Budget this year, I extended the 250% tax deductions for donations made to IPCs, as well as the Business and IPC Partnership Scheme (BIPS), to FY21. I am optimistic that all of you will be encouraged to contribute to meaningful causes.


  13. Once again, I express my deepest appreciation for the efforts of Pools over the past 50 years, and I eagerly look forward to seeing much more being done, by our people for our people.


  14. Happy 50th anniversary.


  15. Thank you, and have a great evening ahead.

[1] Chap Ji Kee means “12 cards” in Hokkien.

[2] This information is cited from an article published in 2012, on National Library’s E-resources titled Chap Ji Kee. This article is intended to highlight the popularity of the Chap Ji Kee lottery game in the 1950s and 1960s in Singapore. Author Alvin Chua had cited materials from the Singapore Police Force’s “Police Life Annual”, articles from academic journals such as the Singapore: Malayan Law Journal, newspaper articles, and books by historians, to support facts and figures quoted in the article.

[3] TB’s Enabling Lives Initiative (TB-ELI), launched in 2014, is a $30m flagship initiative, spanning 5 years. TB is in partnership with SG Enable and National Council of Social Services (NCSS) to raise awareness of persons with disabilities (PwDs) and support projects that have the potential to make meaningful social impact by bringing together the technical and domain expertise of Social Service Organisations, social enterprises and other organisations. TB-ELI also comprises a public education component – See the True Me Disability Awareness Campaign – which is developed with NCSS. It aims to encourage Singaporeans to recognise strengths of PwDs, with the hope of fostering a more inclusive and caring society in Singapore.

[4] The ACE Capstone Leadership Programme for Non-Profits is a pinnacle leadership development programme to groom leaders in the non-profit sector. It is jointly developed by Tote Board with the Social Service Institute. It aims to raise overall capabilities in the non-profit sector to enhance service delivery standards for beneficiaries.