Casino Laws for the Gaming Citizen

by Foo Cheow Ming

The casinos have been here in Singapore for 5 years now. This is therefore an appropriate time to have a quick review of the laws governing casinos and gaming in Singapore where it concerns the average gamer-citizen.

We will – of course – not discuss such laws as concern the casino operators, as they would be well advised by their own professional legal advisors of the complex thicket of laws and licensing conditions which govern casino operators.  What we shall instead discuss here are some of the legalities involved in gaming and attendances at casino which we should all be aware of, even as citizens and gamers.

Who can enter the casino?

  1. Citizens and PRs of Singapore may only have the right of entry into a casino upon paying $100 per every 24 hours.  Note – if you opt to remain for one single minute beyond the first 24 hours, another $100 would become payable.  Non-payment of such a levy is punishable by a fine up to S$1,000.
  2. Persons below the age of 21 may not enter any casino.
  3. If anyone uses the ID of another person to enter the casino, that person may be charged for cheating by impersonation, as well as charged for being in possession of another person’s identification documents.
  4. Both the casino as well as the Casino Regulatory Authority may issue an exclusion order prohibiting any specific individual from entering the casino. An exclusion order can be the result of self-exclusion, exclusion by family members, or automatic exclusion by law (e.g. for undischarged bankrupts). Anyone who is the subject matter of an exclusion order may not enter the casino.  Doing so would be an offence, and his winnings forfeited.  He would also have committed an offence attracting a fine not exceeding $10,000 or jail up to 12 months or to both.

Don’t bring anything that is used to cheat

Possession of anything used for cheating (cards, dice or coins that have been marked, loaded or otherwise tampered with), or any equipment, device or thing that permits or facilitates cheating or stealing, or which would interfere with the operation of gaming equipment, would attract very heavy penalties involving fine up to $150,000 or jail up to 7 years or to both.  You should note that ‘’use’’ of such equipment need not be proved; it is an offence to even possess such things within the casino.  This rule covers not just tampered cards, dice and coins, but arguably also miniaturized or concealed computer equipment to calculate odds in card games such as poker, bridge or blackjack.

Don’t bring chips out of the casino

Most interestingly, it is even an offence to possess chips (above a certain amount) except within the premises of a casino. This means that the law does not permit you to bring out of the casino the chips you bought.  It is an offence to do so, and this offence is punishable very severely by a fine up to $150,000 or jail up to 5 years or to both.

One wonders why this is so:  why can’t you take out of the casino genuine chips which you have paid with your own money? If you paid for the chips, are they not yours, for you to bring wherever you want to?

It is known that in some of the more advanced casinos overseas, the casino operators have installed integrated circuit chips or smartchips into every gaming chip. The smartchips can be read remotely by radio frequency detectors (like those found in electronic door access cards used in most offices nowadays) installed on game tables.  In those casinos employing this technology, the specially encrypted codes have three functions:

  1. To ensure authenticity and prevent forged chips from being presented for cash (chips may be exchanged for their equivalent value in cash and are effectively bearer instruments);
  2. The presence of the specially encrypted information within such chips ensure that every single chip is individually serial-numbered and identified, so as to enable radio frequency detecting sensors to calculate and record conclusively the correct odds and returns of each bet by each gamer;
  3. Thirdly and perhaps most significantly, the presence of the specially encrypted information within such chip enable radio frequency detecting sensors to detect ‘’post-bettings’’ (i.e. the surreptitious shifting of chips by cheaters after bets are closed).

Thus, it makes sense that the casino operator would not permit anyone to take genuine chips out of its premises where the information encoded on such chips may then be analyzed, decrypted and then duplicated.  For this reason, duplication of genuine chips is therefore punished as if legal tender of the land is being forged.

Informers are protected

Most interestingly, the identity of an informer who has given information with respect to a casino offence (e.g. if you inform against someone who is cheating) is protected against discovery in both civil and criminal proceedings.  This degree of protection is only accorded to informers under the Prevention of Corruption Act and drug cases.  The identity of the informer is not protected by confidentiality even in much more serious offences such as terrorism, treason, murder, assisting the enemy etc.

Lastly, for anyone who wishes to contravene or bend or cheat any of the rules in a casino, just be aware that your average modern casino has the highest number of camera per square foot outside the offices of CIA, MI6 or the KGB (now known as FSB)!  Several cameras capture different and overlapping angles of every spot within the gaming hall. Cameras may be visible, or concealed, and they can operate on visible light, infra-red or ultra-violet frequencies (for detecting concealed devices).  Face and voice recognition computer software is now widely utilized to scan, pick up and track specific faces, speech or even clothing styles from the teeming thousands that throng a casino daily.  When coupled with smartchip-embedded gambling chips and radio frequency detecting sensors, this means that a punter’s every physical movement and gaming bet would be logged. Sensors guard against removal of chips from the casino; sensors also detect chips being brought into the casino (to prevent forged chips from being brought in to be exchanged for cash).

The author Foo Cheow Ming is an experienced criminal law practitioner. He is a director at Templars Law LLC.