Contributed By Rajah & Tann Singapore
The Singapore government has traditionally viewed gambling as a social vice, and this will continue to be the position for the foreseeable future. Beyond terrestrial casino-style gambling and horse racing and sports betting, the authorities are also monitoring the emergence of new and non-traditional chance-based activities that may be more appealing and accessible to the younger generation. For example, the authorities recently clamped down on the sale of mystery boxes containing prizes of variable value and the selection of which is left to chance. They are also studying loot boxes in video games that contain variable in-game prizes. The Singapore courts have also recently pronounced that offences relating to online gambling are deserving of harsher punishments than for similar offences relating to terrestrial gambling, due to the greater threats posed by the former to Singapore society.
On a positive note, Singapore’s two Integrated Resorts (IRs), Marina Bay Sands and Resorts World Sentosa, which house the two licensed casinos in Singapore, are set to invest SGD9 billion in facility and infrastructure expansion, in return for an extension of their exclusivity period in Singapore to 2030. The planned investment will see Marina Bay Sands build a new entertainment arena and hotel tower, while Resorts World Sentosa will add two new attractions to the Universal Studios theme park: Minion Park and Super Nintendo World. The two casinos will also be given the option to expand the Approved Gaming Area within their respective casino premises. The new investments are expected to create vast new employment and tourism opportunities.
Recent changes include the following.
Non-casino Land-Based Gambling
All forms of online gaming in respect of casino-style games, games of chance, public lotteries, horse racing and other sporting events are generally prohibited in Singapore by the Remote Gambling Act 2014 (RGA), unless granted a certificate of exemption by the Minister for Home Affairs (the “Minister”), or if such online gaming falls within the scope of the Remote Gambling (Exempt Persons) Order 2015 (RGEPO).
Presently, only one certificate of exemption to conduct legalised remote gaming services in respect of horse racing, sports betting and public lotteries has been granted by the Minister; ie, to SPPL. SPPL is wholly owned by the Singapore Totalisator Board (STB), a statutory board under the Ministry of Finance (MFA).
The RGEPO exempts remote gambling services operated by organisations for individuals to participate in lotteries that are incidental to entertainment provided at a fair, dinner and dance or sporting event, or that are conducted for the purpose of sales promotion, from the prohibitions contained in the RGA. In addition, the providers of such lotteries are exempted from the prohibitions on remote gambling service advertising. This particular exemption extends to a person engaged to publish a remote gambling service advertisement or to promote a lottery in Singapore on behalf of the exempted provider.
There are standard conditions imposed on the providers of customer and non-commercial organisation lotteries by the use of remote communication, such as providing the Head of the Specialised Crime Policy Branch (SCPB), Criminal Investigation Department (CID) of the Singapore Police Force (SPF) with the details of how any prizes not won or unclaimed after two months of the announcement of the winner are to be disposed of and that every draw of the lottery is to be conducted in a manner that allows the public to attend it, or, if the draw is conducted in a computerised manner, an independent public accountant not engaged by the lottery provider may witness and audit the draw.
Recently, the Minister issued exemption orders allowing two government statutory bodies, the Health Promotion Board (HPB) and the Singapore Sports Council (SSC), to conduct and promote specified lucky draws conducted by means of remote communication. Both the HPB and the SSC created mobile applications through which the draw was conducted. As part of the exemption order, the HPB and the SSC were required to comply with various conditions, such as having to provide various details about the draw in publicity material, having to keep a record of the name, telephone number and email address of every participant of the draw, and undertaking to ensure that an audited statement of accounts and the results of the draw are sent to the Head of the SCPB, CID.
Under Singapore law, bingo, fantasy sports and poker would be classified as games of chance and/or public lotteries, and hence would be prohibited if played for money. Social gaming would not be prohibited under the RGA if it does not allow the participants to win money or other valuable consideration.
All forms of land-based casino-style games, games of chance, public lotteries, betting or wagering on horse races and other sport events are generally prohibited in Singapore, unless an exemption has been granted by the Singapore government.
The following licences have been granted.
The key pieces of primary and subsidiary legislation applicable to digital/remote gambling are the following.
The key pieces of legislation applicable to the land-based casino gambling sector are the following.
The key pieces of legislation applicable to the land-based non-casino gambling sector are the following.
In respect of agreements by way of gaming or wagering, Section 5 of the Civil Law Act (CLA) provides that all agreements by way of gaming or wagering will be null and void unless they relate to legalised gaming.
In Singapore, “gambling” is defined to mean all or any of the following:
Land-based gambling would constitute all forms of gambling that are not carried out either wholly or partially by remote communication.
Online gambling would be considered as a form of remote gambling, which is defined as gambling in which a person participates by the whole or partial use of remote communication. Remote communication means communication done through the internet, telephone, television, radio or any other kind of electronic or other technology for facilitating communication.
Key Offences and Penalties Under the RGA
Key Offences and Penalties Under the CCA
Key Offences and Penalties Under the CGHA
Key Offences and Penalties Under the BA
Key Offences and Penalties Under the PLA
See 3.5 Key Offences.
There is no gaming-related legislation known to be pending.
There are several authorities involved in regulating the gambling sector in Singapore. The primary authorities dealing with illegal gambling activity in Singapore are the MHA and various organisations within its umbrella, such as the Gambling Suppression Branch of the CID (which deals with law enforcement relating to terrestrial gambling) and the Gambling Regulatory Unit of the Singapore Police Force (which regulates the remote gambling sector). In addition, the CRA regulates the two licensed casinos, while the STB regulates SPPL. Key areas dealt with by these authorities include:
In addition, the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) has established the NCPG to deal with the social aspects of gambling. Beyond providing free counselling services to gambling addicts, the NCPG maintains a database of individuals who are limited and/or prevented from entering casinos and/or jackpot rooms in private clubs, and/or utilising SPPL’s online betting services.
The law enforcement authorities in Singapore regularly take enforcement action against illegal operators. Even for licensed operators like SPPL and the two IRs, the conditions of the licence are very strict, and prior approvals must be obtained from the regulators for any variations to the operators’ operations, products and services.
In the 2018–19 financial year, the two licensed casino operators in Singapore were fined ten times more as compared to the 2017–18 financial period. Resorts World Sentosa was fined a total of SGD730,000 for failing to implement a system of internal controls approved by the CRA, for failing to comply with a direction relating to the conduct, supervision or control of casino operations, and for allowing underaged individuals access to the gaming floor. Marina Bay Sands, on the other hand, was fined a total of SGD15,000 for failing to prevent an underage individual from accessing the casino floor, and for failing to prevent one PR from entering or remaining on its casino premises without a valid entry levy.
For Digital/Remote Gaming Operations
For Land-Based Casino Operations
For Land-Based Non-casino Operations
The various pieces of gaming legislation do not prescribe restrictions on the number of licences that may be granted, with the exception of Section 41(1) of the CCA, which stipulates that only two casino licences are to be in force at any particular time. The duopoly was supposed to end in 2017, but this has since been extended to end in 2030 instead.
Given the strong anti-gambling stance adopted by the Singapore government, the prospect of licences being awarded to gambling operators who are not related to or endorsed by the Singapore government to conduct commercial gaming operations for an extended period is realistically rather low. In particular, for remote gambling services, the RGA states that a significant factor to be considered by the Minister in an application for a certificate of exemption is whether the applicant is a not-for-profit entity that distributes the moneys forming part of its funds to public, social or charitable purposes in Singapore. This consideration is unlikely to be met in the case of most commercial gaming operators.
For Digital/Remote Gaming Operations
A certificate of exemption listed under the RGA is valid for such period as may be specified in the certificate and may be extended thereafter, with or without additional conditions.
For Land-Based Casino Operations
A casino licence is valid for three years, or a shorter term if the Authority is of the opinion that the term of three years is not appropriate. Casino operators may apply to renew their licence for further periods, under Section 49B of the CCA and the Casino Control (Casino Licence and Fees) Regulations 2009.
Similarly, special employee licences granted in respect of certain categories of employees of the casinos are valid for three years.
For Land-Based Non-casino Operations
The CGHA, BA and PLA do not prescribe time limits for exemptions and/or permits granted under these pieces of legislation. Instead, the terms of such exemptions and permits are set out in the respective exemptions and permits.
For Digital/Remote Gaming Operations
There is no prescribed procedure for filing such an application under the RGA. Hence, it is likely that a written application has to be filed with the MHA. In determining whether it is in the public interest to issue a certificate of exemption, the Minister may consider factors such as whether the applicant is established or based in Singapore, whether any director or key officer of the applicant has been convicted of criminal offences in Singapore, whether the applicant is a non-profit entity that distributes part of its funds to public, social or charitable purposes in Singapore, and whether the applicant has a consistent track record of legal and regulatory compliance applicable to it, whether in Singapore or elsewhere.
A certificate of exemption is issued subject to various conditions, such as that the operator must ensure that its remote gambling services offered remains free from criminal influence and that the potential of remote gambling to harm young persons, vulnerable persons and the society at large is contained.
For Land-Based Casino Operations
The Casino Control (Casino Licence and Fees) Regulations 2009 sets out the process and payable fees for operators looking to apply for a casino licence. Every application shall be accompanied by:
In respect of shareholders, the main shareholder of the respective casino operators in Singapore is not allowed, without prior written approval from the CRA, to divest his stake for a period of ten years from the date of the designation of the second casino site. Further, no person other than the main shareholder, without prior written approval from the CRA, may acquire a stake in the casino operator to the effect of having equal to or more than 20% of the total votes attached to all voting shares in the casino operator, or where the stake is equal to or more than the percentage of the total votes attached to the main shareholder’s stake in the casino operator. Besides this, the main shareholder of a casino operator in Singapore is not allowed, without prior written approval from the CRA, to acquire or hold any stake, or participate in the management or operation, or enter into any agreement for the management or operation of the other casino operator in Singapore.
In respect of directors, owners or senior management officers, casino operators would have to apply for a special employee licence as stated in 4.3 Types of Licences. Such personnel would likely fall under Category A of special employee licences, where an application may be made only by a casino operator on behalf of an applicant who is to exercise any function as authorised by such a licence. Every application shall be accompanied by:
For Land-Based Non-casino Operations
Similar to digital/remote gambling, there is no prescribed procedure when applying for exemptions for land-based betting or gaming operations, but such applications are likely to be made by writing to the MHA. Unlike the RGA, the BA and the CGHA do not explicitly state that exemptions are granted only if the Minister is satisfied that it will be in the public interest to do so, or the factors that the Minister should consider. However, as discussed in 4.3 Types of Licences, any exemptions granted will be subject to various conditions stated in the letter of approval.
However, private clubs and societies may apply to the SPF to obtain a Private Lotteries Permit to operate fruit machines, or to conduct private lucky draws or tombolas. In order to operate fruit machines, the club or society would have to satisfy a set of criteria, such as that they must be a validly established society and that their Constitution does not prohibit the offer of such private lotteries. Importantly, there must also be a wide range of other recreational activities on offer at the clubhouse where the fruit machines are located, such that the operation of fruit machines forms only an ancillary part of the club or society’s recreational offerings. Moreover, new applicants must be in operation for at least three years, and they must have been in operation with at least 500 ordinary members for at least a year.
In order to operate lucky draws or tombolas, the club or society would similarly have to satisfy a set of conditions, such as ensuring that no profits are accrued to any individual person from the conduct of such lottery, and that no persons under 18 years are permitted to participate in the lottery.
The various pieces of gaming legislation do not prescribe any timescale for applications for licences, exemptions and/or permits. These applications are likely to be evaluated on a case-by-case basis, and the timelines would likely vary for each application.
No application fees for licences, exemptions and/or permits under the RGA, CGHA and BA are payable.
For an application for a Private Lottery Permit, the fees are as follows.
For an application for a land-based casino licence, the fees are as follows.
For an application for a casino special employee licence, the fees vary based on which category the employee falls under:
See 4.8 Application Fees.
For Casino Operations
The boundaries of any casino premises are defined by the casino licence issued by the CRA. This would usually be within the Designated Site for which the casino licence was granted. The CRA may occasionally redefine the boundaries of the casino premises on its own accord or on the application of the casino operator.
The casino operator must also ensure that the casino layout complies with requirements prescribed by the CRA and notify the CRA before altering the casino layout. The Casino Control (Casino Layout) Regulations 2009 sets out the detailed requirements for a casino operator to adhere to. The casino operator has to submit a casino layout plan to the CRA comprising detailed floor plans, a certification furnished by a registered surveyor, a description of how the gaming areas will be clearly demarcated from ancillary areas, and a statement by a person in charge of the casino operations that the layout of the casino complies with the requirements.
For Non-casino Operations
There are no premises licensing requirements associated with legalised non-casino operations.
Changes to Singapore’s land-based gambling regulations have largely been focused on addressing the issue of problem gambling. In April 2019, the government increased the casino entry levy for Singaporeans and PRs by 50%. The daily levy has increased from SGD100 to SGD150, while the annual levy has increased from SGD2,000 to SGD3,000. Factors that led to the increase included the extent of problem gambling, household income levels in Singapore and prices of alternative gambling locations in the region.
Similarly, in an attempt to prevent impulse purchase of casino entries and slow down marathon gambling sessions, the authorities have introduced activation periods for the casino entry levy. Patrons are now only able to purchase a second daily or annual casino entry pass if the current daily or annual pass is expiring within six hours. The levy will be automatically activated six hours after its purchase.
There are also further efforts in the pipeline to curb problem gambling at the casinos. One such measure would be personalised alerts sent to casino patrons on the amount of time and money they have expended at a casino. The NCPG is also working with casinos on providing casino patrons with the option to self-regulate their gambling habits by voluntarily setting a limit on their expenditure and time spent at the tables.
The authorities are constantly monitoring domestic trends to determine if there are any potential breaches of the law. In August 2018, the police acted against the operators of vending machines from which consumers could purchase mystery boxes, the contents of which are not known to the consumer until after the purchase. These boxes mostly contain low-value items, although operators claim that some boxes contain higher-value items like smartphones and gaming consoles. The SPF classified the offer of such boxes as a public lottery, and hence illegal under the CGHA. This was met with surprise since these machines are popular in countries such as Japan and Taiwan. Their popularity in other countries, juxtaposed against the swift clampdown in Singapore, served to underline the strict approach that the Singapore authorities adopt.
Finally, as mentioned above, SPPL has recently taken over the horse race betting operations previously run by the Singapore Turf Club. This enables operations to be streamlined; eg, through the consolidation of IT systems, product channels and customer care provided by SPPL. With this consolidation, SPPL hopes to maintain a high level of rigour and accountability in social safeguards and responsible gaming measures, consistent with it achieving the highest level of recognition in the World Lottery Association’s responsible gaming framework.
See 4.3 Types of Licences and 4.6 Application Requirements.
The RGA does not provide for any licences to be awarded for B2B services. Hence, B2B services may be provided, subject to the following:
Section 9 of the RGA makes it an offence for agents or runners to assist remote gambling operators in supervising, organising and managing gambling operations, inviting others to participate in gambling, assisting to collect bets and distribute prizes, or facilitating participation in gambling in any way. Under Section 17 of the RGA, the promotion or authorisation of a promotion in Singapore of any remote gambling is prohibited, and its breach attracts criminal liability too.
For casinos, the CCA permits licences to be awarded to IMAs, who are middlemen who bring international high-rollers to the casinos. IMAs are regulated by the CCA, the Casino Control (Credit) Regulations 2010, the Casino Control (Advertising Regulations) 2010, the Casino Control (Casino Marketing Arrangements) Regulations 2013 and the Casino Control (Internal Controls) Regulations 2013. Restrictions/obligations imposed on IMAs include:
There are presently only two licensed IMAs in Singapore.
The Singapore authorities are looking into regulating novel gambling products such as loot boxes in video games. These loot boxes may be purchased with money and are virtual mystery boxes that contain materials that would assist the video game player. Loot boxes are part of a wider trend of chance-based systems targeting the younger generation, who are less interested in traditional gambling products like jackpot machines and horse racing. Such products are currently not expressly regulated in Singapore, and hence are not subject to the usual age restrictions. The authorities are thus concerned that young vulnerable persons may be exposed to and dabble in these new means of gambling.
Under Part 4 of the RGA, an authorised government officer (including a police officer) may notify the operator of an online location that unlawfully provides a remote gambling service or that promotes remote gambling to cease its unlawful activities within 14 days. If this is not complied with, the officer may then direct the IMDA to order an ISP to block access to that particular website.
Authorised officers may also block payment transactions by persons participating in unlawful remote gaming activity, by directing the MAS to issue payment blocking orders to the financial institution or financial transaction providers involved in the transaction.
The Casino Control (Responsible Gambling) Regulations 2013 requires the two licensed casinos to implement a responsible gambling programme approved by the CRA.
The Responsible Gambling Code of Practice (RCPG) was introduced by the NCPG to minimise the potential harm gambling poses. It has been voluntarily adopted by SPPL and major social clubs that operate jackpot machines in Singapore. The RCPG promotes the best practices in the industry and encourages responsible gaming via a set of practices that both the NCPG and the major gaming operators agree should be adopted to minimise social ills associated with gambling.
The following key gambling management tools have been employed in Singapore.
Private Clubs Running Private Lotteries
The NCPG also conducts regular outreach programmes and runs advertisements on local media to educate the public on the ills of gambling.
Singapore is a member of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) and has committed to implementing the internationally recognised standards set out in the FATF Recommendations on combating money laundering and the financing of terrorism and proliferation (AML/CFT). Singapore does not have a single consolidated piece of legislation that deals with all AML/CFT issues; rather they are dealt with in various industry-specific legislation/guidelines. For example:
See 8.1 AML Legislation.
Should licensed casinos and gaming operators wish to promote or advertise their gaming services, they are required to obtain approval for the promotions or advertisements from the Minister.
In respect of land-based casino gambling advertising in Singapore, the CRA regulates the publication or distribution of casino advertisement or carrying out of casino promotion. Prior approval has to be obtained from the CRA, and the casino advertisement must be publicised, distributed, or carried out in the manner approved by the CRA.
Gaming advertisements by SPPL and the STB must be approved by the Minister for Finance. The Singapore Totalisator Board (Advertisements) Regulations provides that the STB, any totalisator agency or SPPL as agent of the STB must file an application with the Minister for Finance to obtain approval to publicise or distribute gaming advertisements. Approval must also be obtained from the Minister for Finance for the manner and publication of such gaming advertisements, or a responsible gambling message that is intended to foster responsible gambling in order to minimise the harm caused by problem gambling.
The Advertising Standards Authority of Singapore (ASAS) promotes ethical advertising in Singapore and is the self-regulatory body of the advertising industry. ASAS regulates the advertising industry through the Singapore Code of Advertising Practice (SCAP). See 9.4 Restrictions on Advertising for ASAS’ specific role in relation to gambling advertising.
Under Para 2.5 (a) of the SCAP, an advertisement means any form of commercial communication for any goods or services, regardless of medium used, including advertising claims on packs, labels and point of sale material.
Remote gambling service advertisements are defined in the RGA as any writing, still or moving picture, sign, symbol or other visual image, audible message, or any combination of two or more of those things that gives publicity to, or promotes:
Casino advertisements are defined in the Casino Control (Advertising) Regulations 2010 as any writing, object, still or moving visual image or message or audible message, or any combination of them, that:
Gaming advertisements are defined in the Singapore Totalisator Board (Advertisements) Regulations as any advertisement that leads to, induces, urges or encourages participation in any totalisator, lottery, betting or gaming activity of an operator, or publicising or promoting participation in these gaming modes through the mention, illustration or depiction of any brand name, trade mark or service mark relating to the gaming mode, or any pictorial device commonly associated with any such brand name, trade mark or service mark.
The key legal, regulatory and licensing provisions in Singapore are:
See 9.3 Key Legal, Regulatory and Licensing Provisions.
The sanctions and penalties for infringing advertising regulations are dealt with in the following subsidiary legislation/guidelines as follows.
An acquisition or change of control of a casino operator would be considered a “major change” under Section 61(1) of the CCA. A casino operator must ensure that such a change takes place only with the prior approval in writing of the CRA, or where this is not applicable, to notify the CRA in writing of such a change within three days of becoming aware of the change.
Where the “major” change involves a person becoming an associate of the casino operator, where such an associate is, in the opinion of the CRA, able to exercise a significant influence over the management or operation of the casino business of the casino operator, the associate has to make an application and obtain approval from the Minister for Home Affairs under Section 65 or 66 of the CCA.
If there is a change in the situation of an associate, the associate must notify the CRA of the change in writing within 14 days after it takes place.
Non-casino Gaming Companies
The various pieces of gaming legislation do not provide for disclosure requirements for non-casino gaming companies, although it is likely that the permits, licences, approvals and/or exemptions granted to local companies or societies will contain such disclosure obligations.
In respect of casinos, there are two different corporate control triggers that will require the corporate shareholder to obtain the approval of the Minister before effecting any changes of corporate control.
In respect of casinos, if there is an acquisition or change of control concerning investors who are not substantial shareholders of a casino operator, it would be considered a “minor change” under Section 61(1) of the CCA. In such an event, a casino operator must notify the CRA in writing of such a change within 14 days of becoming aware that the change has occurred.
The various pieces of gaming legislation empower the SPF to enter (by force, if necessary) and search premises where unlawful gambling is suspected to have taken place, and to seize and retain any equipment, documents, money or other things that may serve as evidence of illegal gambling.
See also 6.6 Technical Measures in respect of the IMDA’s powers to issue access blocking orders and the MAS’ powers to issue payment blocking orders.
Offences under the various pieces of gaming-related legislation are dealt with in the same way as other criminal offences; ie, through investigation, the pressing of charges against accused persons and criminal prosecution proceedings.
For larger-scale illegal gambling operations, the authorities have conducted raids on these operations, seizing equipment, arresting individuals and charging them under the relevant gambling laws. In July 2019, the SPF executed an island-wide operation against unlawful remote gambling in Singapore and arrested 36 people and seized approximately SGD1.74 million in cash. Given the scale of the unlawful operation, the SPF had taken steps to freeze the suspects’ bank accounts in order to totally deprive them of their ill-gotten gains. Another joint operation against illegal gambling activities was conducted in October 2019, arresting suspects for offences under the CGHA and RGA. The SPF seized close to SGD2,000 in cash and gambling paraphernalia in the operation.
The authorities had also been quick to issue blocking orders against remote gambling websites. Immediately after the RGA came into force, popular betting websites were blocked. In order to keep up with any new online websites that may flout the RGA, the MHA had announced that the list of websites to be blocked will be regularly reviewed, but details will be kept confidential.
Financial penalties are imposed and enforced as a criminal sanction on offenders, as discussed in 3.5 Key Offences.
Certain pieces of legislation provide where financial penalties are to be paid into:
Social gaming in which participants do not stand to win money or money’s worth would not be considered as gambling and is hence not prohibited under Singapore gambling laws. However, the recent trend of loot boxes in video games is being studied by the Singapore government (see 6.5 Recent or Forthcoming Changes).
The appetite for eSports has been growing steadily in Singapore and Asia over the past few years. Singtel, one of the largest telecommunication companies in Singapore, signed a memorandum of understanding with a Korean counterpart on collaboration plans to grow gaming and eSports in Asia.
However, the gambling landscape in Singapore has not kept pace with the growth in the eSports sector. At present, the only legal betting operator, SPPL, does not receive bets for eSports events, and it has not announced any plans to do so in the near future. Gambling and wagering on eSports events have also not been explicitly addressed under Singapore legislation. Based on present definitions in the legislation, it is arguable that eSports may constitute sporting events such that betting on the outcome of eSports tournaments would be prohibited. More controversially, the broad wording of the RGA may result in players who pay money or money’s worth to participate in eSports tournaments in which money or money’s worth are awarded as prizes being found liable for gaming offences. Notwithstanding the foregoing, it is important to note that eSports tournaments have been organised in Singapore for several years without any repercussions or enforcement by the authorities.
Most fantasy sports games involve a significant amount of chance, and hence would be considered a game of chance under the RGA. Prima facie, if players have to pay money or money’s worth to participate in fantasy sports games, and stand a chance to win money or money’s worth, then such games would be prohibited by the RGA. There are currently no plans by the Singapore government to review the legality of fantasy sports.
Skill gaming with no element of chance would not be considered as gambling and is hence not prohibited under Singapore’s gambling laws. Sports and games of pure skill are regulated instead by national sports associations and international sports federations based on the respective game rules.
The rise of cryptocurrencies and blockchain has been relatively recent, and there has been a lack of government regulation on these as yet. Currently, the major legal gambling operators in Singapore (ie, the two licensed casinos and SPPL) do not accept stakes or pay out winnings in cryptocurrencies, or otherwise use blockchain in their operations.
There are no immediate plans to reform gambling laws.
For Digital/Remote Gaming Operations
For Land-Based Casino Operations
For Land-Based Non-casino Operations