International edition
September 21, 2021

The Ministry of Home Affairs is receiving feedback from the public until Aug. 10

Singapore opens proposals to update gambling laws, cover existing and emerging products

Singapore opens proposals to update gambling laws, cover existing and emerging products
The MHA stated that it will amend the legislation later this year to ensure that Singapore's laws and regulations remain effective in the face of evolving gambling products and business models.
Singapore | 07/13/2021

The MHA said Monday it is seeking to amend the definition of gambling to cover a broader scope that will be technology-neutral. It also wants to amend laws relating to social gambling, mystery boxes and arcade games, online and video games with elements such as loot boxes, and penalties for repeat offenders who facilitate illegal gambling. The changes are expected to become effective later this year.

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ingapore's Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) is calling for the public to give feedback on proposed amendments to gambling laws that cover social gambling, online games and claw machines.

MHA is also proposing to raise penalties for repeat offenders who facilitate or operate illegal gambling services, and amend the definition of gambling so that it can cover emerging products. In a release Monday, the MHA stated that it will amend the legislation later this year 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 last year that it will set up a new gambling regulator by 2021, as well as review and amend gambling legislation within the same period, Channel News Asia reports.

According to the MHA, gambling-related crimes remain low, with the number of people arrested for illegal gambling activities remaining stable from 2011 to 2020. Problem gambling also remains "under control", it said, pointing to surveys that show problem and pathological gambling rates have remained relatively stable, at around 1%.

The ministry noted that in order to keep this stable numbers, two trends in the gambling landscape must be addressed. "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."

As a result, the laws need to be amended with a broader definition of what constitutes gambling, so that it can cover existing and emerging gambling products. The MHA noted that such a definition may unwittingly cover products it has no intention of treating as gambling products, such as financial products already regulated by the Monetary Authority of Singapore. To prevent this, it said it will carve out these products from the definition of gambling, which is an approach that has been taken in other jurisdictions such as Australia and Switzerland, The Strait Times reports.

As for social gambling, it recognised that family and friends gambling at home is a socially acceptable practice among Singaporeans, and that such practices present low risk to law and order. Thus, it intends to exempt such activities, provided they fulfil all the exemption criteria. But while MHA intends to exempt such activities when they are conducted in person, it proposes that online social gambling among friends and family still not be permitted under the law due to enforcement difficulties. It also warned that strong enforcement action will be taken against syndicates that exploit the exemptions.

Main changes on gambling laws proposed by MHA

Social gambling

  • Physical social gambling among family and friends to be allowed, subject to criteria
  • Online social gambling among family and friends not allowed
  • Strong enforcement action against syndicates that exploit exemption

Mystery boxes, arcade games and claw machines

  • Prize cap of $100

Online and video games

  • Virtual items to remain in context of gameplay and entertainment
  • Gambling, betting, wagering with virtual items not allowed (that is, skin-betting sites, which involve the use of virtual cosmetic game items to make wagers, to be banned)
  • In-game monetisation for free-to-play games allowed, subject to conditions similar to business promotion lucky draws

Penalties

  • Differentiation between operators, agents and punters, in decreasing order of culpability
  • Raise in penalties for repeat offenders who are operators and agents, to increase deterrence
  • No raise in penalties for punters who are repeat offenders, as enforcement efforts are to focus on enablers

Definition of gambling

  • Broadened to cover existing and emerging gambling products
  • Technology-neutral
  • Products such as financial products regulated by the Monetary Authority of Singapore to be carved out from definition

The MHA said views and suggestions from the public on the proposals are welcome, and the full report on the MHA's proposals can be found at this link.

The public is asked to submit feedback to MHA by August 10, and may do so via email to [email protected], or mailing the MHA at New Phoenix Park, 28 Irrawaddy Road, Singapore 329560, with the subject of their mail listed as Re: Gambling Legislation Consultation.

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