As of Monday, physical social gambling among family and friends has been legalized in Singapore. Under the new Gambling Control Act, the activity has to take place in an individual’s home and cannot be conducted in the course of any business or for the private gain of any person not participating in the gambling.
According to the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), the changes come after the laws were passed in Parliament in March, following MPs' concerns about newer forms of gambling brought about by digital technology.
"This allowance for social gambling in homes will not be extended to online platforms, given the practical difficulties in establishing the relationship of individuals in the online context, whether an online gambling activity is really social gambling among family and friends," said the MHA in a press release on Sunday, as reported by Channel NewsAsia.
Furthermore, on Monday, a new Gambling Regulatory Authority (GRA) was also established, which will take over the functions of the existing Casino Regulatory Authority and be granted more powers to regulate all forms of gambling in Singapore.
The MHA said that this move allows the Government to "stay ahead of technological and gambling trends, respond more adequately to emerging gambling products, and take a more holistic and coherent approach to gambling policies".
The Gambling Control Act criminalizes proxy gambling in casinos and fruit machine rooms, and casinos will be liable to regulatory action, including financial penalties if they fail to enforce this. Class licenses will be introduced for lower-risk gambling products, such as mystery boxes and business promotion lotteries.
According to the new law, operators will not be individually licensed, but they must meet the requirements of the class license before offering their products. According to the statement, failure to comply with the requirements will bring upon harsh penalties.
According to the announcement issued by the MHA, the harshest penalties will be imposed on operators, as their culpability is highest, followed by agents and then punters, adding that this will apply to all illegal gambling offenses, whether they take place online or in person.
Other changes under the new Gambling Control Act will make it an offense for those under 21 to gamble, save for at Singapore Pool’s outlets where the minimum legal age is 18.
"It will be a criminal offense under the Gambling Control Act for underaged individuals to gamble, regardless of whether with licensed or unlawful operators, and for underaged individuals to enter gambling areas, except where entry checks are not required, such as at Singapore Pools’ physical outlets," the MHA stated.
The ministry further explained that "these outlets are open areas with easy access and underaged individuals may unknowingly enter without the intention to gamble", the statement read according to Channel NewsAsia.
Additionally, as stated by the Gambling Control Act, it is also an offense for excluded individuals to enter and gamble at gaming machine rooms and on Singapore Pools’ online gambling platform with MHA citing practical difficulties of establishing if individuals are sufficiently acquainted with each other for the activity to qualify as social gambling.