SINGAPORE: Seven clubs operating jackpot machines have not met the new criteria to run such facilities and have been given six-month interim permits to wind down their operations by April next year, said the Ministry of Home Affairs.
The statement, which was made in response to queries from Channel NewsAsia, comes after tighter regulations for fruit machines kicked in this month.
The new rules include restricting entry to those aged 21 and above, and limiting operating hours from 10am to 11pm.
Two of the affected clubs - Gombak United Football Club and Tanjong Pagar United Football Club – have submitted appeals.
The two clubs had earlier drawn flak for continuing to operate their jackpot rooms despite sitting out of S League.
The revenue from the jackpot operations were used to pay off their debts and build up their coffers.
But Gombak United FC chairman John Yap and Tanjong Pagar United FC chairman Edward Liu say their clubs want to return to play professional football, and the revenue from the jackpot rooms will be crucial.
It was previously reported that the typical expenditure of a football club is about S$1.2 million to S$1.5 million, of which about S$800,000 come from annual Tote Board subsidies. The rest come from other revenue streams such as jackpot earnings.
“Every club would hope to make their club a successful commercial model but (that) means being able to attract good sponsors," said Mr Yap.
"In the context of Singapore, for us, as with many other clubs, we have problems attracting sponsors … (If our appeal gets rejected,) we may have to take drastic action and maybe consider closing our club in the long term if we are unable to continue the funding from the jackpot machines," Mr Yap added.
Gombak United FC currently operates 22 machines at Kitchener Road.
In an interview conducted in Mandarin, Mr Liu also agreed that the money from the jackpot operations is important, without which it would be “difficult to take part in football activities".
He added that Tanjong Pagar United FC fielded a team in the Women's Premier League, and also organises community outreach programmes in Queenstown. Mr Liu said he cited the club's history and contribution to the sport in the appeal.
“We are not operating the fruit machines without contributions,” he said.
Similarly, Gombak United FC has been “actively involved” in youth development and school outreach, said Mr Yap. He added that he understands the Government’s move to guard against problem gambling, and the club had also previously enforced bans on individuals after their family members requested for one.
“We had accumulated some debts that we took many years to repay. Now, our accounts is probably the most healthy it has been in the last 20 years of operations. We hope the authorities will review … and understand our football aspirations.”
The clubs are awaiting the outcome of their appeals.
Meanwhile the Ministry of Home Affairs said the police have issued permits to 65 clubs.
In July, it was reported that there were about 82 jackpot venues and almost 1,900 jackpot machines. Channel NewsAsia understands that not all jackpot venues submitted applications under the new regulations.