Singapore outlines a host of proposed gambling law changes
Singapore has proposed some amendments to its gambling law that cover social gambling and online gambling.
Channel News Asia reports that the Ministry of Home Affairs is seeking public feedback on the proposed amendments, which include raising penalties for repeat offenders who facilitate or operate illegal gambling services and amending the definition of gambling so that it can cover emerging products.
MHA said on July 12 that it will amend the legislation in late 2012 to ensure that Singapore’s laws and regulations remain effective in the face of evolving gambling products and business models.
This comes after the ministry said in April 2020 that it will set up a new gambling regulator by 2021, as well as review and amend gamling legislation within the same period.
Gambling-related crimes remain low in Singapore, with the number of people arrested for illegal gambling activities remaining stable from 2011 to 2020, the MHA said.
Problem gambling remains “under control”, with surveys showing that problem gambling and pathological gambling rates have remained relatively stable, at around one per cent.
“To continue to enjoy these good outcomes, we need to make sure that our laws and regulations can address two trends in the gambling landscape.
“First, advancements in technology. The internet and mobile computing have made gambling products more accessible.
“Second, the boundaries between gambling and gaming have blurred. Business models have adapted to suit changing customer preferences by introducing gambling elements in products that are traditionally not perceived as gambling.”
Social gambling and in-game monetisation part of Singapore reforms
MHA said it currently takes a practical approach towards gambling and will only regulate or prohibit when there is a risk to law and order or potential to cause social harm.
Hence, the ministry intends to explicitly permit physical social gambling among family and friends as it poses “low” law and order concerns.
“We will take strong enforcement action against syndicates which exploit this exemption to conduct illegal gambling activities,” it said.
At present, the Common Gaming Houses Act does not define private gambling, although it prohibits gambling in a common gaming house, which includes any place kept or used for gaming, habitual gaming and public lottery.
“We recognise that gambling amongst family and friends in homes is socially acceptable amongst many Singaporean,” MHA added.
MHA also considered permitting online social gambling with families and friends in Singapore, including gambling over the internet, but will propose not to.
“Explicit exemption of online social gambling will pose enforcement difficulties, as it will be difficult to establish if individuals are sufficiently and meaningfully acquainted with each other in the online context to qualify as social gambling,” MHA stated.
Currently, the Remote Gambling Act prohibits online social gambling.
For online games, MHA is focusing on those that allow virtual items to be transferred out and potentially be exchanged for money or money’s worth on a third-party hosted exchange.
MHA is proposing to introduce conditions to ensure that transferable virtual items are retained in the context of gameplay and entertainment, as intended by game developers.
It is also proposing to allow in-game monetisation facilities for free-to-play games, where players do not have to pay to play or receive virtual prizes, subject to conditions similar to those imposed on currently exempted business promotion lucky draws.
The public can submit feedback by August 10 via email to MHA_Gambling_Feedback@mha.gov.sg