Singapore’s Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has invited the public to provide their opinion on proposed changes to the country’s gambling legislation that covers online games, social gambling and so-called claw machines. The Ministry has also proposed an increase in the penalties for people who have repeatedly facilitated or operated the offering of unlawful gambling services. It is also willing to change the definition of gambling so that a larger scope is given to the term in order for new products to be covered.
Earlier today, the Ministry of Home Affairs of Singapore shared that it will make an amendment to the country’s gambling legislation by the end of 2021 in order to make sure that the gambling laws and regulations remain efficient while the sector is growing bigger and new business models and gambling products emerge.
The proposal has been made after the Ministry revealed in April 2020 that it intended to establish a new gambling regulatory body by 2021. At the time the MHA also shared that it would review and make amendments to the country’s gambling laws over the same time frame.
According to data revealed by the MHA, problem gambling in Singapore remains under control, saying that some surveys have shown that gambling addiction rates have remained relatively stable, at around 1%. Furthermore, gambling-related criminal activity has also remained low, with the number of Singaporean residents who were taken into custody for participating in illegal gambling services remaining stable in the period from 2011 to 2020.
Stricter Measures to Be Unveiled Only If There Is Risk for Social Harm
The Ministry of Home Affairs shared that gambling products have become more easily accessible thanks to the Internet and mobile devices, so Singaporean laws and regulations of the gambling sector need to address that trend. On the other hand, the MHA has taken into account that the differences between gaming and gambling have blurred over the years, with new business models appearing to introduce gambling elements in products that are normally not considered gambling.
Recently, the Ministry shared that it is set to use a practical approach in terms of the entire industry, so it will only regulate the sector or impose stricter measures only in case there is a risk for social harm to be inflicted on the wider public. Furthermore, the MHA has unveiled its intentions to openly permit Singaporean residents to participate in so-called social gambling amongst friends and family members, as this kind of gambling does not feature a high risk for society.
For the time being, the Common Gaming Houses Act does not provide a definition for private gambling, despite the fact that gambling activities in a common gaming house are not allowed. According to the MHA, gambling between friends and family members in their homes is a socially acceptable activity. The Ministry has considered whether to permit online social gambling but, eventually, decided not to. Currently, online social gambling services are suspended under the provisions of the Remote Gambling Act.
The Ministry of Home Affairs is thinking of proposing the introduction of conditions that would make sure that virtual items would be allowed to be transferred out and be potentially exchanged for money. However, online games of chance that provide players with the opportunity to use virtual items from other games would not be permitted.
Some changes regarding arcade games, mystery boxes and claw machines have also been considered by the Ministry. The MHA is now making a proposal to implement a S$100 limit on the value of prizes of the aforementioned gambling services, saying that the cap would be enough to address the effect that high-value prizes have on customers.