Gaming Law 2019

Last Updated November 25, 2019

Singapore

Law and Practice

Authors



Rajah & Tann Singapore is a leading full-service law firm in Singapore and one of the largest in South-East Asia, which has worked on many of the biggest and highest-profile cases in the region. Rajah & Tann Singapore is a member firm of Rajah & Tann Asia, one of the largest regional networks, which brings together leading law firms and over 750 fee earners in Cambodia, China, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Myanmar, Thailand, Philippines and Vietnam, with each offering the highest standards of service to locally based clients while collectively having the capability to handle the most complex regional and cross-border transactions and to provide excellent legal counsel seamlessly across the region. The firm's geographical reach includes Singapore-based regional desks focusing on Japan and South Asia. Further, as the Singapore member firm of the Lex Mundi Network, it offers clients access to excellent legal support in more than 100 countries globally.

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.

Casinos

  • The casino entry levies imposed on Singaporeans and Singapore Permanent Residents (PRs) have been increased by 50%.
  • The casinos will be employing new digital processes, such as the introduction of facial recognition and biometric technologies, to enhance security checks for patrons and controls for gaming equipment.
  • The Casino Regulatory Authority (CRA) has set up a Data Analytic Unit to extract greater value from data gathered, in order to enhance its decision-making capabilities.

Non-casino Land-Based Gambling

  • Singapore Pools (Private) Limited (SPPL), the state operator of legalised lottery and sports betting services, has taken over the administration of horse race betting from the Singapore Turf Club (STC). Moving forward, SPPL will be the only licensed operator to offer all forms of betting and lottery services in Singapore.
  • The Ministry of Home Affairs has announced significant increases over the next three years in the cost of applying for and renewing permits to operate fruit machines.

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.

  • Casinos: granted to Resorts World Genting and the Las Vegas Sands Corporation to operate the two IRs, which contain the only legalised casinos in Singapore. Casino-style games conducted in these casinos (including poker and bingo) are permitted.
  • Horse racing, sports betting and public lotteries: a licence has been granted to SPPL to offer such gaming services.
  • Gaming machines: permits have been granted to private clubs and societies to operate gaming machines and other private lotteries for members in the premises of said clubs and societies.
  • Lucky draws and contests by way of remote communications: ad hoc exemptions have been given for various lotteries conducted by means of remote communication. Examples have been provided in 2.1 Online.

The key pieces of primary and subsidiary legislation applicable to digital/remote gambling are the following.

  • Remote Gambling Act 2014 (RGA): regulates remote gambling activities in Singapore as well as activities outside Singapore that are targeted at Singapore residents.
  • Remote Gambling (Exempt Persons) Order 2015 (RGEPO): sets out various exceptions to the RGA; ie, in the case of an incidental lottery, customer lottery or non-commercial organisation lottery.

The key pieces of legislation applicable to the land-based casino gambling sector are the following.

  • Casino Control Act (CCA): regulates the two licensed casinos in Singapore.
  • Subsidiary legislation under the CCA:
    1. Casino Control (Casino Contracts) Regulations 2010 – regulates controlled contracts and notifiable contracts entered into by the casino operator;
    2. Casino Control (Casino Layout) Regulations 2009 – regulates the gaming areas within any casino premises;
    3. Casino Control (Casino Licence and Fees) Regulations 2009 – regulates the application process and fee structure for a casino licence;
    4. Casino Control (Casino Marketing Arrangements) Regulations 2013 – regulates the conduct of casino marketing arrangements between the two licensed casinos and the international market agent and their representatives (IMAs), as the case may be;
    5. Casino Control (Casino Tax) Regulations 2010 – regulates the taxation regime imposed on the two licensed casinos;
    6. Casino Control (Composition of Offences) Regulations 2010 – specifies the offences under the CCA that may be compounded by the CCA;
    7. Casino Control (Conduct of Gaming) Regulations 2009 – governs the issuance, redemption and use of chips and chip purchase vouchers, together with the conduct of table games offered at the casino;
    8. Casino Control (Credit) Regulations 2010 – regulates the extension of credit for gaming in a casino by a casino operator to a casino patron who is neither a Singaporean nor a PR;
    9. Casino Control (Designated First Site) Order 2012 and Casino Control (Designated Second Site) Order 2012 – demarcates the parcels of land on which the casino premises of the respective IRs are to be situated on;
    10. Casino Control (Entry Levy) Regulations 2010 and the Casino Control (Variation of Entry Levies) Order 2019 – imposes levies on Singaporeans and PRs who enter the casinos;
    11. Casino Control (Evaluation Panel) Regulations 2014 – requires the formation of an evaluation panel to formulate an evaluation opinion on an operator’s application to establish an IR or to renew its existing licence to operate an IR, as the case may be;
    12. Casino Control (Exclusion from Casino – Social Assistance Programme and Subsidy Scheme) Order 2013 – excludes any individual on the specified social assistance programmes or subsidy schemes in the Order from entering or remaining, or taking part in any gaming, on any casino premises;
    13. Casino Control (Exemption from National Council on Problem Gambling) Order 2016 – stipulates the exemption of every member, secretary or officer of the National Council on Problem Gambling (NCPG) from disclosing any relevant information to an exempt operator under the RGA or a Private Lotteries Permit holder;
    14. Casino Control (Exemption from Exclusion from Casino) Order 2013 – specifies certain groups of individuals who are exempted from any exclusion from the two licensed casinos imposed on them;
    15. Casino Control (Exemption from Responsible Gaming Requirements) Order 2013 – stipulates the condition for the exemption of a casino operator from the responsible gaming requirements;
    16. Casino Control (Exemptions relating to Pre-Paid Entry Levies) Order 2019 – exempts Singaporeans or PRs from the new entry levy if they have paid for a prepaid entry levy before the new entry levy came into effect, and the levy is current at the time of entry;
    17. Casino Control (Gaming Equipment) Regulations 2009 – stipulates the conditions for approval for manufacturers and suppliers of gaming machines and equipment, and the requirements for gaming machines and equipment to be complied with;
    18. Casino Control (Internal Controls) Regulations 2013 – requires the two licensed casinos to implement controls, policies, procedures and processes for the operations of a casino or operations relating to casino marketing arrangements;
    19. Casino Control (Licensing of Special Employee) Regulations 2009 – regulates the application and grant of special employee licences for various categories of such employees;
    20. Casino Control (Main Shareholder – Marina Bay Sands Pte. Ltd.) Notification 2010 and Casino Control (Main Shareholder – Resorts World at Sentosa Pte. Ltd.) Notification 2010 – designating the respective main shareholders of the two licensed casino operators in Singapore;
    21. Casino Control (Patron Dispute Resolution) Regulations 2009 – regulates the resolution of disputes between a casino operator and a casino patron, including disputes as to alleged winnings or losses and the manner in which a game was conducted;
    22. Casino Control (Prescribed Offences) Regulations 2010 – specifies the offences under the CCA for which a suspected person may be detained;
    23. Casino Control (Prevention of Money Laundering and Terrorism Financing) Regulations 2009 – stipulates the various AML obligations of the casinos, including conducting due diligence on customers and reporting significant cash transactions to the Suspicious Transaction Reporting Officer (STRO);
    24. Casino Control (Problem Gambling – Exclusion Orders and Visit Limits) Rules 2008 – stipulates the procedures for the application of the various exclusion orders that can be imposed on individuals;
    25. Casino Control (Responsible Gambling) Regulations 2013 – requires the two licensed casinos to establish a responsible gaming programme; and
    26. Casino Control (Surveillance) Regulations 2009 – requires the two licensed casinos to install, operate and maintain a casino surveillance system in accordance with an approved surveillance plan.

The key pieces of legislation applicable to the land-based non-casino gambling sector are the following.

  • Betting Act (BA): regulates the conduct, promotion and advertisement of betting services in respect of horse races and other sporting events.
  • Betting and Sweepstakes Duties Act (BDSA): imposes duties on betting and sweepstakes activities.
  • Common Gaming Houses Act (CGHA): regulates the conduct, promotion and advertisement of public gaming and public lotteries.
  • Common Gaming Houses (Exemption) Notification 1996 (CGHEN): exempts certain incidental public lotteries and public lotteries conducted by certain organisations from the operation of the CGHA.
  • Common Gaming Houses (Private Bodies – Exemption) Notification (CGHPBEN): exempts gaming conducted by certain private bodies from the operation of the CGHA subject to certain conditions.
  • Private Lotteries Act (PLA): prohibits the operation of private lotteries unless a Private Lotteries Permit has been obtained from the SPF.

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:

  • betting; ie, the staking of money or money’s worth on the outcome of a horse race or sporting event;
  • gaming; ie, the playing of a game of chance for money or money’s worth; and
  • participating in a lottery.

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

  • Gambling using a remote gambling service not provided by an exempt operator: liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding SGD5,000 or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months or to both.
  • Providing an overseas remote gambling service with a Singapore-customer link: liable on conviction to a fine of between SGD20,000 and SGD500,000 or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding seven years or to both.
  • Providing a Singapore-based remote gambling service: liable on conviction to a fine of between SGD20,000 and SGD500,000 or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding seven years or to both.
  • Providing remote gambling services for another in accordance with arrangements made by a principal: liable on conviction to a fine of between SGD20,000 and SGD200,000 or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years or to both.
  • Employment in Singapore of a young person in the business of remote gambling: liable on conviction to a fine not less than SGD20,000 and not more than SGD300,000 or to imprisonment not exceeding six years or to both.
  • Publishing a remote gambling service advertisement in Singapore: liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding SGD20,000.
  • Promoting or authorising the promotion of remote gambling in Singapore: liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding SGD20,000.

Key Offences and Penalties Under the CCA

  • (i) Possessing a device that counts or otherwise records cards dealt in the course of gaming; (ii) using counterfeit chips, or using any device to counterfeit chips, or knowing that such a device is specially designed for the purpose of counterfeiting chips; (iii) possessing a device outside of a designated casino site, knowing that it is specially designed to counterfeit chips and with the intention that it will be used for this purpose; (iv) using cards, dice or coins that are tampered with; and (v) using any device that facilitates cheating or stealing: for these offences, (i) an offender is liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding SGD150,000 or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding seven years or to both; or (ii) corporations are liable to a fine not exceeding SGD300,000.
  • Cheating in playing any game in a casino, or any collusion to cheat: liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding SGD150,000 or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding seven years or to both.
  • Possessing chips outside of a site designated for the operation of a casino (“Designated Site”): liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding SGD150,000 or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years or to both.
  • Forging or counterfeiting chips, chip purchase vouchers, match play coupons, a licence granted under the Act or a special employee’s form of identification: for these offences, (i) an offender is liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding SGD150,000 or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding seven years or to both; or (ii) corporations are liable to a fine not exceeding SGD300,000.
  • Impersonating a holder of a special employee licence or an inspector: liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding SGD25,000 or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding three years or to both.
  • Entering a casino by pretending to be some other person or by using another person’s identification document: liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding SGD10,000 or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding three years or to both.
  • Refusal to provide an authorised police officer information necessary to respond to a threat: liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding SGD50,000.
  • Failing to produce for inspection any machinery, equipment, record or thing when required to do so by an inspector or police officer under performance of his functions or failing to supply information to an inspector or police officer when required under performance of his functions: liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding SGD50,000 or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years or to both.
  • Destroying or falsifying documents when required to produce a document to the CRA, an inspector or an authorised person: liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding SGD100,000 or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years or to both.
  • Providing false or misleading information to the CRA, an inspector, a police officer, or an authorised person when required to do so: liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding SGD50,000 or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years or to both.
  • Obstructing an officer of the CRA, any inspector or any person assisting the inspector, or any authorised person in the discharge of their duties: liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding SGD50,000 or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years or to both.
  • Improperly interfering with gaming equipment or using a token other than the prescribed denomination as a gaming token to be used in order to operate or gain credit on the gaming machine: (i) liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding SGD150,000 or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding seven years or to both; or (ii) corporations are liable to a fine not exceeding SGD300,000.

Key Offences and Penalties Under the CGHA

  • (i) Owning or temporarily having use of a place that is kept for or used as a common gaming house; (ii) permitting such a place to be used as a common gaming house; (iii) managing a common gaming house; (iv) publicising that such a place is being used for the purpose of a common gaming house; (v) conducting a competition of a game of chance through the newspapers and other publications, or in connection with any trade or business or sale of article to the public: for these offences, an offender is liable on conviction to a fine of between SGD5,000 and SGD50,000 and imprisonment for a term not exceeding three years.
  • Assisting in a carrying on a public lottery: liable on conviction to a fine of between SGD20,000 and SGD200,000 and imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years.
  • Providing monetary support for the purpose of establishing or conducting the business of a common gaming house: liable on conviction to a fine of between SGD5,000 and SGD50,000 and imprisonment for a term not exceeding three years.
  • Gaming in a common gaming house: liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding SGD5,000 or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months or to both.
  • Gaming in a public place: liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding SGD5,000 or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months or to both, and all gaming equipment will be seized and forfeited to the government.
  • Buying a lottery ticket from a common gaming house: liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding SGD5,000 or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months or to both.

Key Offences and Penalties Under the BA

  • (i) Owning or temporarily using a place for the purposes of keeping or using it as a common betting house or betting information centre; (ii) permitting such a place to be used as a common betting house or betting information centre; (iii) managing a common betting house or betting information centre; (iv) receiving money or money’s worth for bets or wagers placed in a common betting house or betting information centre; and (v) publicising that such a house is being used for the purpose of a common betting house or betting information centre: liable on conviction to a fine of between SGD20,000 and SGD200,000 and imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years.
  • Providing monetary support for the purpose of establishing or conducting the business of a common betting house: liable on conviction to a fine of between SGD10,000 and SGD100,000 and imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years.
  • Betting in a common betting house: liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding SGD5,000 or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months or to both.
  • Acting as a bookmaker in any place: liable on conviction to a fine of between SGD20,000 and SGD200,000 and imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years.
  • Assisting a person who has committed a BA offence to evade arrest or detention by giving warning or otherwise: liable on conviction to a fine of between SGD20,000 and SGD200,000 and imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years.
  • Announcing or publishing any information on horse races or other sporting events: liable on conviction to a fine of between SGD5,000 and SGD50,000 and imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years.

Key Offences and Penalties Under the PLA

  • Promoting or conducting a private lottery without a valid permit: (i) if involving fruit machines, liable on conviction to a fine not less than SGD10,000 for each machine (but not exceeding in the aggregate of SGD200,000) or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years or to both; or (ii) in all other cases, liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding SGD20,000 or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding three years or to both.
  • Promoting or conducting a private lottery during the period of suspension of the permit granted in respect of that lottery or in contravention of any condition of the permit granted in respect of that lottery: liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding SGD20,000 or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 12 months or to both.

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:

  • granting licences, exemptions and approvals for gambling activities to be conducted in Singapore;
  • monitoring of legalised gambling activities in Singapore and ensuring that they comply with the law and are conducted in a socially responsible manner; and
  • enforcement actions against illegal gambling activities in Singapore, including liaising with other statutory bodies such as the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) and the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) in enforcing measures such as requiring internet service providers to block access to illegal gambling websites, and requiring financial institutions to block illegal gambling-related payment transactions.

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

  • Unless they fall within the exemptions in the RGEPO referred to in 3.1 Key Legislation, operators who wish to offer remote gambling products and services to Singapore residents will have to apply to the Minister for a certificate of exemption, which authorises them to provide a Singapore-based remote gambling service with a Singapore-customer link.
  • Any person may also obtain an ad hoc exemption from the RGA on a case-by-case basis, subject to the conditions imposed for the grant of such exemption.

For Land-Based Casino Operations

  • Casinos may only be built on sites designated by the Minister. Only the owners of such Designated Sites, or a person nominated by the owner, may then apply to the Casino Regulatory Authority for a casino licence. Only two casino licences have been granted. The Singapore government has announced that it has no plans to grant licences to additional operators until after 2030 at the earliest, if at all.
  • Casino operators must also apply for special employee licences on behalf of various categories of people they wish to employ under the Casino Control (Licensing of Special Employees) Regulations 2009. These include employees who perform senior managerial or other executive functions, or whose role has a significant influence over the casino operations, or who provide technical support services relating to the maintenance, rectification or repair of gaming equipment in the casino premises.
  • Under the Casino Control (Casino Marketing Arrangements) Regulations 2013, IMAs looking to enter into a casino marketing arrangement with casino operators must apply for an international market agent licence, or an international market agent representative licence if such agents use representatives for their marketing operations. A licensed IMA is not allowed to employ or use the services of a person to organise, promote or conduct a casino marketing arrangement within any casino premises unless that person holds a valid international market agent representative licence.

For Land-Based Non-casino Operations

  • Unless they fall within the exceptions in the CGHPEN and the CGHEN, operators of games of chance or public lotteries must apply to the Minister for an exemption. Exemptions granted will be subject to conditions imposed in the gazetted exemption, as well as to additional conditions that are set out in the letter of approval to the applicant. Such conditions include the following.
    1. Disclosure in printed publicity material of the methodology of the promotion, details of the prizes to be distributed, the manner of their distribution, and the time, date and place of the draw. Copies of such publicity material must be made freely available to all participants.
    2. In the case of lucky draws, the draw must be conducted by the organisation’s/company’s employees or officers only.
    3. The draw shall not involve the use of any game, method, device, scheme or competition that has previously been banned under the CGHA.
  • Operators of betting services in respect of horse racing and sports betting must apply to the Minister for an exemption. Exemptions granted will similarly be subject to conditions imposed in the gazetted exemption, as well as to additional conditions that are set out in the letter of approval to the applicant.
  • Private lottery and fruit machine operators must obtain Private Lottery Permits from the SPF for the promotion and conduct of a private lottery. The Minister may also exempt a social welfare society from the PLA where it is promoting a private lottery for purposes conducive to the welfare of the public or any class thereof.

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:

  • an application fee;
  • such documents as the CRA may specify evidencing the applicant’s ownership of the Designated Site;
  • the disclosure of corporate or individual information in the form provided by the CRA for the applicant and such associates of the applicant as the CRA may specify; and
  • such other documents as the CRA may require from the operator to determine their application.

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:

  • the prescribed fee;
  • documents specified in the application form and other documents as may be required by the CRA; and
  • a certificate issued by the casino operator as to the competence of the applicant to exercise the functions required of the applicant.

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.

  • Permit to operate fruit machines:
    1. issuance of a permit for a year or part thereof – SGD300;
    2. renewal for a year or part thereof – SGD200;
    3. amendment to the number of fruit machines specified in a permit to operate fruit machines – SGD195; and
    4. other amendments to a permit – SGD22.
  • Permit other than for a permit to operate fruit machines; eg, for lucky draw or tombola:
    1. issuance of a permit for a fixed duration – SGD33;
    2. renewal for a year or part thereof – SGD33; and
    3. amendments to a permit – SGD22.

For an application for a land-based casino licence, the fees are as follows.

  • Casino licence:
    1. application fee – SGD1,100; and
    2. licence fee – SGD24 million per annum.
  • Renewal of casino licence:
    1. application fee – SGD850; and
    2. licence fee – SGD24 million per annum.
  • Application to redefine casino boundaries: SGD270.

For an application for a casino special employee licence, the fees vary based on which category the employee falls under:

  • Category A (senior management) – SGD400 (fresh application), SGD350 (renewal);
  • Category B (middle management) – SGD320 (fresh application), SGD300 (renewal);
  • Category C1 (operations personnel) – SGD270 (fresh application), SGD240 (renewal); and
  • Category C2 (technical support services) – SGD270 (fresh application), SGD240 (renewal).

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:

  • such services do not fall within any of the offences prescribed under the RGA; eg, promoting a remote gambling service; and
  • such services should not be deemed to abet any offences under the RGA.

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:

  • casino marketing arrangements are to involve only foreigners;
  • IMAs are not to initiate offers to extend credit to patrons, without the patron’s prior request;
  • proper records must be kept in respect of the IMA’s operations and the credit they grant to patrons;
  • internal controls must be established for the IMA’s operations based on the Internal Controls Code for International Market Agents issued by the CRA; and
  • IMAs may not publish or distribute casino advertisements or carry out casino promotions except with the CRA’s prior approval.

There are presently only two licensed IMAs in Singapore.

Not applicable.

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.

Casinos

  • Legislative requirement for casinos to implement a responsible gambling programme approved by the CRA;
  • casino entry levies for Singapore citizens and PRs;
  • imposing a minimum age of 21 years for casino entry;
  • mechanisms to limit or exclude persons from entering casinos managed by the NCPG;
  • statutory exclusions from casino entry for certain groups of persons; eg, undischarged bankrupts and persons on social assistance programmes; and
  • ensuring that casino operators implement programmes and/or mechanisms such as patron-imposed loss limits, operator-imposed casino exclusion, patron education, employee training on responsible gaming, and intervention for problem gaming.

Online Gaming

  • Imposing a minimum age of 21 years to create an account on SPPL’s remote gambling platform;
  • mechanisms to limit or exclude persons from using SPPL’s remote gambling platform managed by the NCPG;
  • mechanisms for patron-imposed loss limits on SPPL’s remote gambling platform; and
  • blocking access orders and payment blocking orders (see 6.6 Technical Measures).

Private Clubs Running Private Lotteries

  • Imposing a minimum age of 21 years for entry into jackpot/slot machine rooms;
  • mechanisms to limit or exclude persons from entering jackpot/slot machine rooms managed by the NCPG;
  • reduced operating hours of jackpot/slot machine rooms (between 10am and 11pm);
  • prohibition on promotions relating to jackpot/slot machines within and outside the club; and
  • prohibition on ATMs, credit card or other electronic funds transfer facilities in jackpot/slot machine rooms.

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:

  • Section 139 of the CCA requires casino operators to engage in customer due diligence measures to detect and prevent money laundering and the financing of terrorism;
  • the Casino Control (Prevention of Money Laundering and Terrorism Financing) Regulations sets out the various AML obligations of the casinos, including conducting due diligence on customers and reporting single cash transactions of over SGD10,000 or multiple transactions totalling over SGD10,000 in a single day to the STRO;
  • the Organised Crime Act (2015) (OCA) provides for the making of financial reporting orders, organised crime prevention orders, disqualification orders and orders for the confiscation of gains derived from organised crime activity;
  • the Terrorism (Suppression of Financing) Act (TSOFA) allows for warrants to be issued for seizure and forfeiture of terrorist property;
  • the Corruption, Drug Trafficking and other Serious Crimes (Confiscation of Benefits) Act (CDSA) provides for confiscation orders to be made to deprive offenders of benefits accrued from serious criminal conduct, including a number of gambling-related offences;
  • the United Nations (Anti-Terrorism Measures) Regulations makes it an offence to provide or collect funds for terrorists, deal with property of terrorists, and provide resources and services for the benefit of terrorists; and
  • MAS Notice 626 – Prevention of Money Laundering and Countering the Financing of Terrorism – issued pursuant to Section 27B of the Monetary Authority of Singapore Act sets out due diligence measures that banks should take to monitor for suspicious transactions, as well as the steps banks should take to report suspicious transactions based on the requirements of the CDSA and TSOFA.

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:

  • a particular remote gambling service;
  • remote gambling services in general;
  • a domain name that relates to a particular remote gambling service; or
  • any words that are closely associated with a particular remote gambling service.

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:

  • contains any express or implied inducement, suggestion or request to visit any casino;
  • expressly or impliedly leads to, induces, urges, promotes or encourages the playing of any game in any casino;
  • being designed to publicise or to promote the casino or the playing of any game in the casino, mentions, illustrates or depicts:
    1. any brand name, trade mark or service mark of a casino;
    2. any pictorial device commonly associated with any brand name, trade mark or service mark of a casino;
    3. any pictorial representation, or any brand name, trade mark or service mark, of a game that may be played or gaming equipment that may be used in a casino; or
    4. publicises a casino promotion.

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:

  • Part 3 of the RGA: prohibits remote gambling advertising and promotion;
  • Section 4(d) of the CGHA: prohibits the announcement or publishing of a common gaming house or in any other manner that invites or solicits any person to commit a breach under the CGHA;
  • Section 3(1)(e) of the BA: prohibits the announcement, exhibition or publishing of a common betting house or betting information centre or in any other manner that invites or solicits any person to commit a breach under the BA;
  • Section 21(1) of the PLA: prohibits the promotion or conduct of any private lottery without a valid permit;
  • The Singapore Totalisator Board (Advertisements) Regulations 2010: imposes restrictions on time, frequency, duration, content and manner of publication and distribution of gaming advertisements;
  • The Casino Control (Advertising) Regulations 2010: prohibits the publication and distribution of casino advertisements and promotions unless specific approval is obtained from the CRA;
  • ASAS Advisory on Gambling Advertisements and Promotions: sets out guidelines on gambling-related marketing communications; and
  • IMDA’s Internet Code of Practice: sets out guidelines regarding advertising through the internet.

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.

  • The Singapore Totalisator Board (Advertisements) Regulations 2010. The STB, any totalisator agency, or SPPL as agent of the STB will be liable to a fine not exceeding SGD5,000, and in the case of a subsequent conviction(s), to a fine not exceeding SGD10,000.
  • The Casino Control (Advertising) Regulations 2010.
    1. Errant casino operators will face disciplinary action under Section 54 of the CCA, which may result in the variation of terms of a casino licence, its suspension or even cancellation, the issuance of a letter of censure, or the imposition of a financial penalty.
    2. Errant licensed IMAs will face disciplinary action under the Casino Control (Casino Marketing Arrangements) Regulations 2013. An agent may be subject to the variation of the terms of his or its international market agent licence, its suspension or even cancellation, the issuance of a letter of censure, or the imposition of a financial penalty. A representative who is found liable may receive a letter of censure, have any condition of his international market agent licence varied, have his international market agent representative licence cancelled and be disqualified from obtaining and applying for such a licence for a specified period, or be subject to a financial penalty not exceeding SGD10,000 for each breach.
    3. Errant licensed special employees will face disciplinary action under Section 93 of the CCA, such as a censure, a variation, suspension or cancellation of the special employee licence, disqualification from obtaining or applying for such a licence for a specified period, or a financial penalty not exceeding SGD10,000 for each breach.
    4. Any other person will be liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding SGD10,000.
  • ASAS Advisory on Gambling Advertisements and Promotions. The ASAS is empowered to do the following:
    1. request an advertiser or advertising agency to amend or withdraw any advertisement that is contrary to the SCAP or the Gambling Advisory;
    2. request its members to sanction parties that violate the SCAP or the Gambling Advisory, including the withdrawal of facilities, rights or services from parties concerned; and
    3. publish details of the outcome of any investigation and naming those who are in breach of the SCAP or the Gambling Advisory, thereby causing adverse publicity for the offender.
  • IMDA’s Internet Code of Practice. The IMDA may impose sanctions, including fines, on internet content providers who contravene the Internet Code of Practice.

Casinos

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.

  • First, where a person becomes a substantial shareholder of the corporation with the casino licence or enters into any agreement or arrangement to control voting shares of an aggregate of 5% or more of the total votes attached to all voting shares in that corporation.
  • Second, where a person becomes a 12% controller, 20% controller, or an indirect controller of the corporation with the casino licence.

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:

  • under Section 25 of the PLA, all financial penalties collected are paid into the Consolidated Fund; and
  • under Section 197(2) of the CCA, all financial penalties imposed on a person are paid to the CRA and recoverable by the CRA as a debt due to the CRA from that person.

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

  • Under the Betting and Sweepstake Duties Order (BDSO), the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore (IRAS) imposes a 25% duty on the gross betting profit generated from the bets received in connection with horse racing and sports betting less Goods and Services Tax (GST) paid on such bets.
  • The duty on sweepstakes is 30% of the amount contributed towards the sweepstake less GST.
  • In respect of totalisator or pari-mutuel betting (excluding horse racing and sports betting; eg, TOTO) and any other system or method of cash or credit betting (eg, 4D and Singapore sweep), the duty payable is 30% of the amount of the bets collected less GST paid on such bets.

For Land-Based Casino Operations

  • Duties are imposed on the casino operators’ gross gaming revenue (ie, the amount of net wins on all games conducted within the casino premises excluding GST chargeable by the casino operator for gaming supplies made) and currently are as follows:
    1. 5% on gross gaming revenue from premium players who open a deposit account of at least SGD100,000 with the operator; or
    2. 15% on gross gaming revenues from other players.
  • The current tax rates will be revamped after February 2022, with a new tiered tax structure imposing higher tax rates across both categories. The new tax rates were introduced in light of the IRs announcing their intention to invest in building new world-class attractions as mentioned in 1.1 Current Outlook. The new tax rates will be in effect for ten years, provided that the IRs achieve their investment targets to build the new attractions. If they fail to do so, higher tax rates will be imposed on each category of gaming revenues. The new tax rates are as follows:
    1. 8% on the first SGD2.4 billion of gaming revenue from premium players, and 12% on revenue above this amount; or
    2. 18% on the first SGD3.1 billion of gaming revenue from other players, and 22% on revenue above this amount.

For Land-Based Non-casino Operations

  • For operations other than private lotteries: the same as for digital/remote gambling operations.
  • For private lotteries, the PLA prescribes duties payable of:
    1. 30% on the total amount raised from any private lottery (excluding those conducted by way of fruit machines) by the promoter of the private lottery; and
    2. 9.5% on the total amount wagered by players of each fruit machine in order to play it, without any deduction of winnings paid out.
Rajah & Tann Singapore

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Rajah & Tann Singapore is a leading full-service law firm in Singapore and one of the largest in South-East Asia, which has worked on many of the biggest and highest-profile cases in the region. Rajah & Tann Singapore is a member firm of Rajah & Tann Asia, one of the largest regional networks, which brings together leading law firms and over 750 fee earners in Cambodia, China, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Myanmar, Thailand, Philippines and Vietnam, with each offering the highest standards of service to locally based clients while collectively having the capability to handle the most complex regional and cross-border transactions and to provide excellent legal counsel seamlessly across the region. The firm's geographical reach includes Singapore-based regional desks focusing on Japan and South Asia. Further, as the Singapore member firm of the Lex Mundi Network, it offers clients access to excellent legal support in more than 100 countries globally.

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