Singapore Starts Consultation for Proposed Gambling Law Reform

Gambling laws in Singapore are about to get tougher, as Singapore’s Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has said it would seek public input to steer a more comprehensive regulatory framework on the country’s gambling industry. 

The ministry is responding to a now tangible overlap between online gambling and gaming, with the terms often used interchangeably by the gambling industry. Another concern is the change in the technological makeup of gambling operations, which is another issue that the ministry wants to address. This comes in the broader context of Singaporeans turning to illegal gambling websites, whether knowingly or unwittingly. 

Illegal Gambling Out, Social Gambling in Crosshairs

Singapore will effectively be amending its Remote Gambling Act to make it more serious about responding to wrongdoers. One particular aspect of the proposed changes is to increase the penalties for repeat offenders, referring to parties or individuals who facilitate illegal gambling activities or solicit participation for such websites. 

Under the proposed changes, illegal operators and their owners, can be fined up to $500,000 and face up to seven years in prison. The ministry also wants to follow other jurisdictions’ examples in creating a technology-neutral industry that is not hindered by the ill definition of what constitutes a gambling product and what doesn’t.

Financial products, for example, will be left out completely and not considered gambling. The ministry will also seek to put forward clear-cut guidelines on what constitutes gambling and differentiate between that and social gambling or games with gambling elements. Gambling in social circles, such as between family and friends, will not be prohibited.

Regulating the Industry Is Always Best 

There has been a passing mention to loot boxes, a growing pain point for many jurisdictions that have called for their tougher regulation. As per the ministry’s proposed guidelines, there will be a $100 cap for any type of game that incentivizes its consumers to buy in-game goods that contain a random prize. 

The ministry is aware that over-regulation is not always the best strategy and, in a statement, stated that it’s “not desirable to disallow all forms of gambling,” referring to the increase in underground gambling, which is difficult to control.

A much more pragmatic approach would be to license or exempt certain gambling activities while ensuring that consumers are protected. To this end, Singapore will want to collect as much input from the public as it can through August 10, when the public consultation will shut down, and submissions will be reviewed. 

Singapore’s latest action on gambling is a continuation of a previous commitment to ensure that the jurisdiction continues to regulate gambling adequately as the industry is undergoing a rapid change that puts a greater focus on online gambling. Illegal gambling is treated seriously in a country where jail sentences are a common punishment for wrongdoers.