Singapore may update laws to allow in-person social gambling

Singapore’s Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) is proposing legal amendments that would explicitly allow social gambling in the city-state, at least when conducted face-to-face between family and friends.

This is part of an overall revamp of gambling laws in Singapore, including a plan to establish a new gambling regulator sometime this year.

“We recognize that gambling amongst family and friends in homes is socially acceptable amongst many Singaporeans,” the MHA commented. At present, the Common Gaming Houses Act does not define social gambling, although it prohibits gambling in gaming houses.

Permission for social gambling will not extend, however, to the online sphere, due to the fact that it would cause “enforcement difficulties” to figure out if individuals are truly personal connections.

The MHA commented that problem gambling appears to be under control in Singapore, and so some loosening in the legal framework is admissible.

The regulators want to stay on top of technological changes in the gaming industry and also take note that “the boundaries between gambling and gaming have blurred. Business models have adapted to suit changing customer preferences by introducing gambling elements in products that are traditionally not perceived as gambling.”

In this context, the MHA states that, “online games of chance that allow players to use virtual items from other games as a form of stake on casino games or match outcomes, such as skin-betting sites, will not be allowed.”

However, MHA is also proposing to allow in-game monetization for free-to-play games, where players do not have to pay to play or receive virtual prizes, and to introduce a S$100 (US$74) cap on the value of prizes for mystery boxes, arcade games, and claw machines.

At the same time as there is some loosening in the laws, MHA promises to come down harder on those who attempt to abuse the system, especially repeat offenders.

August 10 has been set as the deadline for public comment on these legislative proposals, with no firm indication of when they might be effectuated.