Singapore has released draft legislation streamlining gambling regulation under one authority, while also criminalising proxy gambling, introducing “class licensing” for low-risk products and toughening existing penalties.
The government on Monday (February 14) introduced regulatory and gaming control bills to parliament, delivering on a promise to centralise gaming regulation and further modernise oversight of technological change in online gaming.
The Gambling Regulatory Authority of Singapore Bill “expands the mandate” of the Casino Regulatory Authority (CRA) by placing all gambling regulation within its jurisdiction and renaming it the Gambling Regulatory Authority of Singapore (GRA), a Ministry of Home Affairs statement said.
The GRA board of between five and 17 members will oversee the CRA’s casino beat while adding oversight of online gambling services, fruit machine products and Singapore Pools operations, including horseracing, lotteries and sports betting.
The GRA will also “work collaboratively” with police and other domestic and foreign law enforcement organs to investigate and prosecute gaming crime, as well as with the National Council on Problem Gambling to reduce problem gambling, the bill says.
For the larger gaming industry, the main focus of the new bills will be products that potentially fall within the Gambling Control (GC) Bill’s wide-ranging scope.
The GC Bill will repeal the Betting Act, the Common Gaming Houses Act, the Private Lotteries Act and the Remote Gambling Act to provide a streamlined regulatory tool for gambling other than in casinos.
“Operators of land-based casinos and operators of online games with gambling elements will need to carefully monitor the passing of the GRA Bill and the GC Bill and consider the effects it will have on their operations,” said Wai Ming Yam and Gina Ng, lawyers with the Morgan, Lewis & Bockius law firm, in a Lexology article on Tuesday.
“For example, operators of online games with gambling elements (e.g., mystery boxes) may fall under the class licensing regime and may need to make adjustments to ensure that their operations abide by the conditions and safeguards that will be imposed.”
The “class licensing regimes” in the GC Bill will not require individual licences for gaming operators, with the GRA instead tasked to “maintain oversight and introduce safeguards” to prevent the inducing of gambling behaviour.
“For example, we intend to impose a class licence for mystery boxes sold by retailers and impose safeguards such as capping the retail value of prizes at S$100 [$74],” the statement said.
Wider licensing regimes for existing regulated products will also be streamlined and maintained, it said.
The bill also introduces a three-tier penalty structure of increasing severity for gamblers, agents and operators, with mandatory imprisonment for “agents and operators of unlawful gambling activities”.
However, it also provides protection for “social gambling among family and friends” by exempting gambling behaviour at home, other than online gambling.
“Online social gambling will not be exempted, however, as it would be difficult to establish if individuals are sufficiently and meaningfully acquainted with each other in the online context to qualify as social gambling,” according to the statement.
The bill also specifically criminalises proxy gambling in casinos and for fruit machines, given that the “decision maker” gambler who employs the proxy “would have bypassed the entry checks put in place to screen out individuals of concern, such as those under [casino] entry bans”.
New criminal offences include under-age gambling and under-age entry to gambling areas without entry checks, as well as gambling area entry by excluded individuals, but not self-excluded individuals.
The statement also advised of pending updates to the Casino Control Act 2006, although it did not provide details.
Singapore’s record on gambling legislation suggests the bills will pass with no substantive amendments.