Singapore Announces Proposed Amendments to Gambling Laws Including Permitting Social Gambling in the Family Home

by Ciaran McEneaney - Monday, July 12th, 2021 4:12

Singapore’s Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has announced a series of proposed amendments to existing gambling laws. One of the most notable proposals suggests a change to public gambling laws to allow social gambling to take place in a home setting between family and friends.

The announcement, made through a press release on the MHA website, goes on to outline several key changes that will affect the local gambling industry.

These proposed amendments include:

  • a new legal definition of what constitutes gambling activity
  • more clarity on the difference between gaming and gambling
  • a new penalty system that will see repeat offenders face harsher sanctions

Social gambling has been a hot topic in Singapore in recent years and the latest efforts by the MHA should finally provide clarity on what has been considered a gray area for quite some time.

In the press release, the MHA stated:

“We recognise that gambling amongst family and friends in homes is socially acceptable amongst many Singaporeans, and poses low law and order concerns. Hence, we are proposing to exempt physical social gambling among family and friends, subject to conditions that safeguard against criminal exploitation.

Social gambling among family and friends will thus be explicitly permitted under legislation. We will take strong enforcement action against syndicates which exploit this exemption to conduct illegal gambling activities.”

However, it’s important to note that the MHA has made specific reference to the fact that social gambling in the home must be live, in-person games. The department has taken further steps to address the online industry as it was previously suggested that online social gambling could possibly be permitted among family members.

On this note the department added:

“MHA considered whether to also exempt online social gambling among families and friends (e.g. gambling over the Internet), but propose not to. Currently, online social gambling is criminalised under the Remote Gambling Act. 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.”

The department has also chosen to target video and arcade games that offer mystery boxes as prizes. These claw machines can sometimes offer lucrative prizes such as smartphones and gaming consoles that can often be traded for a cash prize. According to the MHA, these machines can lead to issues such as problem gambling. As a result, the department is proposing an SG$100 cap for all mystery boxes limiting the value of prizes.

With regards to the legal definition of gambling, the MHA has proposed a new wording of the definition that will limit any loopholes for future gambling products, particularly those that are online.

While the MHA hopes to have any proposed amendments finalized and put into place as soon as possible, the department will wait until the public consultation period has ended on August 10th before making any changes to existing legislation.

Ciaran McEneaney

Ciaran has a decade of experience writing for some of the biggest names in the eSports, poker, and casino industries.