Thursday, July 29, 2021

Singapore to allow family social gambling but not online

Changes to the law are needed to keep pace with technology developments in gaming and gambling, says the home ministry.

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In Singapore, advances in technology are making the task of distinguishing between gaming and gambling ever more difficult as the internet and mobile computing have made gambling products much more accessible.

Coupled to that, more people are buying and playing games at home in the Covid-19 pandemic restrictions.

The definition of gambling differs across the different laws in Singapore but the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) intends to amend this later this year so as to cover a broader scope that will be technology-neutral, The Straits Times reports.

In a release on Monday, the MHA said it is also seeking to amend laws relating to social gambling, mystery boxes, arcade games, and online and video games.

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.

Lawmakers recognise that family and friends gambling at home is a socially acceptable practice among Singaporeans, and that such practices present a low risk to law and order, so it intends to exempt such activities when they are conducted in person.

But it proposes that online social gambling among friends and family still not be permitted.

It also warned that strong enforcement action will be taken against syndicates that exploit exemptions.

Noting that because of rapid technological advances and changing consumer tastes, the lines between gambling and gaming have become increasingly blurred, the ministry intends to amend laws governing games with gambling elements.

It proposes that a S$100 prize cap on mystery boxes, arcade games and claw machines be introduced to address the inducement effect of high-value prizes.

It also proposes that in-game monetisation facilities for free-to-play games be allowed, but that these be subject to current conditions similar to lucky draw promotions by businesses.

The MHA release said Singapore will adopt a strict but practical approach to its regulation of gambling.

“It is not practical nor desirable to disallow all forms of gambling, as this will just drive it underground and cause more law and order issues,” it said.

“Instead, we license or exempt some gambling activities, with strict safeguards put in place. Our laws governing gambling seek to maintain law and order and minimise social harm caused by problem gambling.”

Gambling-related crimes remain low, with casino crimes comprising less than 1% of all crimes since the integrated resorts began operations in 2010.

Problem gambling also remains under control, with problem and pathological gambling rates remaining stable at around 1% of the respondents, according to surveys by the National Council on Problem Gambling.

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