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Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Sulake v. Singaporean Parliament

This may be a little off topic from the typical "Chinese-American kicker," but this topic I found a little interesting. This topic may also concern young teens across the globe.

After reading several South East Asian based newspapers, I came across a line stating that the Singaporean Government is starting to address online gambling. According to a news article from, Singapore's Second Minister for Home Affairs, S Iswaran reported that the Singaporean Government is reviewing how to "restrict access to, and patronage of, online gambling platforms" throughout 2013.

Why would this concern young teens?

There is a popular game on the web for teenagers called Habbo Hotel. Through this game kids can chat, party, roleplay, design, and create their own rooms. This seems pretty innocent right? Well, on Habbo there is also an economy that is executed by the exchange of their virtual furniture and currencies. This big economy almost exclusively revolves around the use of online gambling and virtual casinos (see this Habbo Wiki page). Based on a poll conducted on a forum (now only accessible via the Way Back Machine), approximately 60% of the users who still play have participated in some form of online gambling on the site whether it be casinos, grabbers, or small scale "p2p" games. With Sulake (company that runs Habbo) still trying to recover from the heavy losses caused by the 2012 Mute combined with the constant number of Habbos quitting each and every day, could crashing the economy run Sulake bankrupt? Sulake has already seen the effects of banning casinos in one hotel already, (Danish). The population of the hotel dropped significantly from 900 members daily, to just under 100. Imagine if the same fraction gets cut off from their third largest hotel which accounts for users in Singapore, the United States, the United Kingdom, India, Poland, Malaysia, Canada, and the Philippines. That would be a heavy loss for Sulake, and most likely a good number of the investors they still have will simply pull out.

Some may argue that the Singaporean Government would have no interest in a teenage social networking website. The gambling that takes place on Habbo is NOT regulated, NOT taxed, CAN be conducted by scammers, IS an example of underaged gaming, DOES involve furniture bought with real money, and IS also disregarded by the outsourced MODs from Costa Rica. Tell me, are virtual chips any different from virtual furniture?

With all the problems going around now, and Sulake having to fire more and more staff members each day, it looks as though they're going the same direction as MySpace. I wish Sulake and all Habbos the best of luck and my humble regards.

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