New offences for underage, proxy gambling among tighter safeguards proposed in Parliament
SINGAPORE: Underage and proxy gambling will be an offence, while more people will be prohibited from gambling under tighter safeguards proposed in a Bill introduced in Parliament on Monday (Feb 14).
The Gambling Control Bill proposes to increase penalties for unlawful gambling both physically and online, and impose stiffer penalties for repeat offenders who facilitate or operate unlawful gambling services.
The wide-ranging draft law will also define social gambling that is exempted, and license all gambling products including in the form of a class regime for online games that allow users to get items with monetary value by chance.
The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) said in a press release on Monday that the Bill will help gambling regulations keep pace with the evolving landscape, as technology makes gambling more accessible and blurs the lines between gambling and gaming.
“To stay ahead of technological and global trends, respond more adequately to emerging gambling products, and make a more holistic and coherent approach to gambling issues, we should rationalise and consolidate,” MHA said.
This comes after MHA in July last year invited the public to give feedback on these proposed amendments. The ministry said on Monday it has taken into account stakeholders’ feedback.
If passed, MHA said it will repeal the four existing gambling-related laws – the Betting Act, Common Gaming Houses Act, Private Lotteries Act and Remote Gambling Act.
The Bill will also amend the definition of gambling to make it technology-neutral to cover existing and emerging gambling products.
“For example, the scope of betting will go beyond horse racing and sporting events to include the outcome of any competition, event or process,” MHA said, adding that financial products regulated by the Monetary Authority of Singapore will not be considered gambling.
Separately, a Gambling Regulatory Authority of Singapore (GRA) Bill - also introduced on Monday - proposes to set up the Gambling Regulatory Authority around mid-2022. The authority will regulate the entire gambling landscape in Singapore which is currently overseen by multiple agencies.
At the moment, the Casino Regulatory Authority regulates the casinos, MHA’s Gambling Regulatory Unit regulates online gambling services and fruit machines, the Singapore Totalisator Board governs physical gambling services operated by Singapore Pools, and the police enforces against unlawful gambling activities.
MSF is responsible for social safeguards to address the harms of gambling.
The Gambling Control Bill proposes to make it illegal for people under 21 to gamble. Additionally, under the Bill, it will be an offence for those under 18 years old to gamble at Singapore Pools’ physical outlets.
The minimum ages for gambling are already prescribed in existing laws.
“It will also be a criminal offence for underaged individuals to enter gambling areas, except where entry checks are not required,” MHA said.
Singapore Pools’ physical outlets are excluded from this offence as they are not required to conduct entry checks, the ministry explained.
“These outlets are open areas with easy access, and underaged individuals may enter unknowingly with no intention to gamble,” MHA added.
It will also be an offence for excluded individuals, including undischarged bankrupts and those getting financial assistance from the Government, to gamble and enter gambling areas across all platforms and locations. This rule is currently in place for casinos.
The Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) said in a separate statement that it will extend this exclusion programme to all tenants and occupiers on the Public Rental Scheme. Currently, the exclusion programme covers such tenants with six or more months of rent arrears.
“This change will minimise negative effects of gambling on them and their families,” MSF said.
Operators that gamble with underaged or excluded individuals, or allow such individuals to enter gambling areas, will be liable for an offence or disciplinary action by the Gambling Regulatory Authority.