Three individuals have been charged in Singapore for setting up an online poker club using a mobile app. Benjamin Ong Jia Wei (31), Serene Chan Li Shan (35), and Desmond Low Weimin (36) each faces a three-month jail sentence and a fine of S$20,000 for violating the country’s Remote Gambling Act.
The trio created their own online poker club “All In Poker Club” back in 2018 after suffering losses playing in another club. It was Low who registered the new club via a mobile app called “Pokerrr2“.
All three served as managers of the poker club and went on to invite other players who would put in some money in order to play.
Each of the accused agreed to take turns in hosting the online poker games on a daily basis and used virtual coins to facilitate them. They would communicate with players via a WhatsApp chat group.
From the total bet amount generated during each game, the trio would deduct a 5 per cent charge which they shared among themselves. In November 2018, the club attracted as many as 29 players in one day, generating as high as S$11,682 in total bet value. The club operated for around six months, from June to December 2018, and attracted at least 60 players.
All three of the accused were arrested in 2019, and each of them pleaded guilty to violating the Remote Gambling Act.
Asian Players Forced To Go to Offshore Poker Sites
Over the years, online poker has become increasingly popular in Asia, but due to tough laws imposed in countries such as China, Singapore, South Korea and Malaysia, all of which prohibit online gambling including online poker in their respective jurisdictions, customers turn to illegal sites in order to play.
The majority of Asian countries criminalize online gambling but many players still gamble through the internet regardless of the strict regulations and severe punishments. This is mainly due to attractive prizes being offered at online sites, with customers enjoying more convenience and flexibility considering that they no longer have to go to land-based casinos to gamble.
But for countries that enforce online gambling bans, gambling activities carried out through the internet are often linked to more serious criminal practices and offences.
The demand for online poker in Asia has driven illicit operators into the region, and despite continuing crackdowns on offshore sites, the illegal market continues to flourish. The use of VPNs, mobile devices, and underground payment platforms make it more difficult for these sites to be eradicated altogether. Whenever one illegal site gets caught, a new platform emerges, and the cycle continues.