A prison sentence was spared from an online gambler in Singapore for daring to wager with a site not licensed to operate by the city-state.
Local media reported on Monday that a ruling was handed down by Singapore’s High Court last month lifting the two-week jail term imposed on Lau Jian Bang, who was convicted in January on two counts of gambling with an online gambling site internationally licensed.
In 2015, after the introduction of the Remote Gaming Act (RGA), communicating to illegal platforms became prohibited. Registered exceptions from the RGA were given to the state-run Singapore Pools and the Singapore Turf Club the same year, and the two sites opened respectively in October and November 2016. (Since that time, pools have taken over the Turf Club site.)
Lau placed a total of 13 bets worth SG$39k (US$ 28,600) over two days in October 2016 with an unspecified gambling site. Lau then placed more bets, bringing his total outlay to SG$50k. He was found guilty and sentenced for each offense to complete a two-week prison sentence, with the terms continuing at the same period.
Lau appealed his conviction in July based on his belief that the sentence was excessive and that it was more appropriate to have a high fine or community service. Lau’s attorneys argued that he was merely an end-user and that the approval of the two state-run sites by Singapore indicated that online gambling was not the great evil claimed by prosecutors.
Justice Aedit Abdullah decided that for each of his two sentences, Lau should be spared prison time and instead be required to pay the full SG$5k penalty. Aedit said that his view of harm caused by RGA violations was
“not as a matter of course for first-time offenders to attract imprisonment.”
Aedit allowed repeat offenders to need harsher measures, but suggested that the courts begin with an SG$1k fine for first offenders, with penalties rising to a level based on the size of the wagers to ensure that the penalty is sufficient to deter future crimes.
Aedit rejected the claims of lawyers that a prison sentence was appropriate given that Lau’s wagering rate surpassed the total financial penalty significantly. Aedit said it was up to Parliament either to increase the maximum penalty or to merge the current fine with
“good betting training and awareness.”