Gambling Legally (In Public or Online) in Singapore
What Constitutes Gambling?
Under the Remote Gambling Act (RGA), “gambling” is broadly defined to include betting, gaming, and participating in a lottery.
The RGA defines “betting” to include the staking of money or money’s worth on the outcome of a horse-race or sporting event.
Under the Common Gaming Houses Act (CGHA), “gaming” refers to any game involving an element of chance, or of mixed chance and skill, where players stand to gain money or money’s worth of rewards.
Games which do not involve money (e.g. a simple game of mahjong between friends with no cash involved) do not fall under the CGHA.
The CGHA also regulates public lotteries, which is defined as a lottery to which the public or any class of the public has or may have access. A “lottery” is defined as any game, scheme or competition whereby money or money’s worth is distributed in a manner dependent on chance, whether or not such a lottery is held or managed within or outside Singapore.
When is it Legal to Gamble in Singapore?
Gaming in a “common gaming house” is an offence under the CGHA. A “common gaming house” includes any place kept or used for gaming, habitual gaming and public lottery, whether or not the public has access to it.
Thus, whether the gambling behaviour in question crosses the line into an illegal act depends on whether the gambling venue is kept as a common gaming house, or a place to be used for gaming.
While the CGHA does not provide a definition for private gambling, it is generally considered as gambling in a place to which the public may not have access (e.g. at home).
Private gambling constitutes an offence if the place where such gambling is carried out is kept specifically for the purpose of habitual gaming as a common gaming house.
Anyone found guilty of gaming in a common gaming house will be liable for a fine up to $5,000, or to imprisonment for a term up to 6 months, or to both.
Gambling in public
Gambling in public refers to gambling in a place to which the public may have access and includes any place in which 10 or more persons are employed.
It is illegal to gamble in any public place. For example, gambling at a funeral held in a void deck may be illegal as a void deck is a public place.
However, if the funeral is held in a private place (e.g. rented space for events) to which the public does not have access, gambling there may be illegal as long as the private place in question does not constitute a common gaming house (as mentioned above).
Anyone found guilty of gaming in a public place will be liable for a fine up to $5,000, or to imprisonment for a term up to 6 months, or to both. Their gaming instruments may also be seized and forfeited.
Placing bets with bookmakers
Bookmakers’ activities are regulated under the Betting Act. Under the Betting Act, a bookmaker is any person who receives or negotiates bets or wagers on a cash or credit basis in exchange for money or money’s worth.
Any person who bets or wagers with a private bookmaker (also known as a “bookie”) in any place or by any means shall be guilty of an offence. Offenders will be liable for a fine up to $5,000, or to imprisonment for a term up to 6 months, or to both.
On the other hand, it will not be illegal to bet with exempted bookmakers such as Singapore Pools, Tote Board and the licensed casinos here.
Playing with jackpot machines
As jackpot gambling falls under the definition of “gaming” in the CGHA, it is illegal to participate in jackpot gambling in a common gaming house or in public unless the jackpot machine is located in a club which is permitted to operate the machine.
Is there a Minimum Age to Gamble Legally in Singapore?
The minimum age to gamble legally in Singapore varies according to the venue of the gambling activity. There is no one minimum age that applies to all gambling activities.
Generally, you have to be at least 18 years of age to gamble in Singapore. For example, Singapore Pools only allows individuals aged 18 and above to buy 4D or TOTO tickets, or placing horse racing bets. To have an account with Singapore Pools, you need to be at least 21 years old.
Under the Casino Control Act, you have to be at least 21 years of age before you can legally gamble in casinos. Minors found guilty of faking their age to gain entry to the casinos will be liable for a fine up to $1,000.
Online Gambling under the Remote Gaming Act
What is online gambling?
Under the RGA, “online gambling”, also known as “remote gambling”, is defined as gambling in which players participate through remote communication.
Such remote communication includes communication through the Internet, telephone, television or radio, or any other kind of electronic or other technology which facilitates communication.
Legality of online gambling
Section 8 of the RGA states that anyone who gambles through remote communication and uses a remote gambling service (explained below) shall be guilty of an offence.
It does not matter whether the gambling was done by the individual only, or together with any other person, or whether the individual directly or indirectly participated in the gambling.
What is a gambling service?
A “gambling service” is defined to include a service for the:
- Conduct of a public lottery;
- Supply of public lottery tickets;
- Placing, making or accepting of bets; or
- Conduct of game of chance where the game is played for money, or money’s worth, and customers give money, or money’s worth, to play the game.
Point (4) however, does not apply to social games and mobile applications which allow players to purchase tokens or game-enhancement features. This is as long as these games do not provide facilities to convert these tokens or features to money, or to real-world merchandise which can be exchanged for money.
When is online gambling legal?
Online gambling is legal if it is done through an exempt operator. Currently, only Singapore Pools and Singapore Turf Club have been granted certificates of exemption under the RGA. However, other operators may be granted certificates of exemption in the future.
In the event of doubt, it would be best to obtain more information as to the exemption status of operators by lodging an inquiry with the Ministry of Home Affairs.
Consequences of illegal online gambling
If you have participated in unlawful remote gambling activity, a financial institution provider may be issued with a payment blocking order that may:
- Prevent it from accepting credit extended to you;
- Prevent it from accepting any cheque, bank draft or similar instrument which is drawn by or issued to you;
- Prevent it from accepting any funds transfer to or from you; or
- Cause it to block payments or prohibit transactions where these use merchant codes customarily associated with gambling transactions.
You can also be arrested without a warrant.
If you are found guilty of unlawful remote gambling under the RGA, you will be liable for pay a fine up to $5,000, or to imprisonment for a term up to 6 months, or to both.
The sentencing framework for first-time offenders under section 8 of the RGA was considered in the case of Lau Jian Bang v PP.
In that case, the court stated that first-time offenders under section 8 of the RGA will generally be fined at least $1,000 instead of receiving an imprisonment term.
The exact amount of the fine is pegged to the amount of the offender’s bets. Factors which could increase the amount of the fine would include steps taken to conceal one’s illegal bets and lack of remorse. An offender who pleads guilty in a timely manner or cooperates with the authorities may face a smaller fine.
An imprisonment term will generally only be imposed in cases involving repeat offenders.
Prohibition against inviting persons under 21 to gamble online
Under section 13 of the RGA, it is an offence to invite, permit, or cause a person under 21 years of age to gamble online in Singapore.
This includes actions such as sending the person an advertisement about an online gambling service or highlighting information about online gambling to that person with a view of encouraging him or her to gamble online.
Anybody found guilty of inviting a person under 21 years of age to gamble remotely shall be liable for pay a fine of at least $20,000 and up to $300,000, or to imprisonment for a term up to 6 years, or to both. This is unless you can prove that you took all reasonable steps to determine the individual’s age and that you reasonably believed that the individual was at least 21 years of age.
Tips on Gambling Legally in Singapore
Gamble in a private place with trusted friends
In order to avoid being charged for illegal gambling, you must not gamble in a public place, or a common gaming house where habitual gaming takes place.
It is also best to gamble only with a trusted group of friends and refrain from adding others to this group. This is because inviting strangers to gamble may be construed as gambling in a place to which the public may have access, constituting the offence of gambling in a “public place”.
Avoid gambling with seasoned gamblers as they may attract unwanted attention from the authorities. Seasoned gamblers may be characterised as those who are willing to spend large sums of money when gambling, or those who have outstanding debts due to their gambling habits.
Place small bets
You should cap your bets at a small amount. This this will help authorities to understand that you are engaging in a social activity with friends, instead of operating a common gaming house.
Bet only with exempted betting operators
Avoid private bookies, and place bets only with exempt betting operators. You should also not attempt to flout the minimum age requirement for betting with exempt operators.
Steps to Take If You Have Been Charged with a Gambling Offence
If you have been charged with a gambling offence, you may want to consider hiring a criminal lawyer to represent you in court.
The lawyer may assist you in seeking acquittal in the event that you did not in fact commit the offence in question.
For example, say that you have been found playing mahjong in public. Under the law, you will be presumed to be gaming in public for money or money’s worth, which is an offence.
However if there was actually no money involved in your mahjong session, a lawyer can highlight this to try and help acquit you of the offence.
Alternatively, the lawyer may assist you by establishing a defence or, if you are convicted of the offence, by seeking a lesser penalty for it.
- How to Write a Letter of Representation to AGC in Singapore
- What is Entrapment and is It Legal in Singapore?
- Juvenile Crime: What If Your Child is Arrested in Singapore?
- Police Investigation Process for Crimes in Singapore (4 Steps)
- Arrest Warrant Issued Against You in Singapore: What to Do
- Police Arrest Procedure in Singapore
- Arrestable and Non-Arrestable Offences in Singapore
- What Should You Do If You Witness a Crime in Singapore?
- Can the Public Make a Citizen's Arrest in Singapore?
- What to Do If You’re Being Investigated for a Criminal Offence in Singapore
- "Right to Remain Silent" to Singapore Police: Does It Exist?
- Police Custody in Singapore: What You Should Know
- Search Warrant: The Issuance and Execution of It in Singapore
- Penalties for Lying to the Authorities in Singapore
- Can You Say No to a Lie Detector Test in Singapore? And Other FAQs
- Surrender of Passport to the Police and How to Get It Back
- Extradition: What If I Flee After Committing Crime in Singapore
- When is a Witness Testimony Unreliable in Singapore?
- What is Acquittal & How Can One Be Acquitted in Singapore?
- Using the Defence of Diminished Responsibility in Singapore
- TIC: Guide to Charges Taken Into Consideration in Singapore
- Can I Use the Defence of Intoxication in Singapore?
- Can I Represent Myself in a Criminal Court Case in Singapore and How?
- Claiming Trial as an Accused
- Pleading Guilty in Singapore: Consequences & Withdrawal of Plea
- The Defence of Unsound Mind in Singapore: What is It?
- Gag Orders in Singapore: Whose Identity Can be Protected?
- Mitigation Plea: How to Plead for Leniency in Court in Singapore
- Recidivism: What Happens If You Reoffend in Singapore?
- Guide to Filing a Criminal Appeal in Singapore
- Criminal Motion: What is It and How to File One in Singapore
- Guide to Filing a Criminal Revision in Singapore
- Presidential Clemency in Singapore
- Repatriation or Deportation from Singapore: How Does It Work?
- Criminal Records in Singapore
- Visiting a Loved One in Prison or On Death Row in Singapore
- Getting Parole (Early Prison Release) in Singapore
- How Long Is Life Imprisonment in Singapore? And Other FAQs
- Corrective Training and Its Consequences in Singapore
- Consequences of Receiving a Stern Warning in Singapore
- Probation: Eligibility and Whether It Leaves a Criminal Record
- How Can Adult Offenders Get Probation in Singapore?
- Reformative Training in Singapore: When Will It be Ordered?
- Are You Eligible for a Mandatory Treatment Order (MTO)?
- Caning in Singapore: Judicial, School & Parental Corporal Punishment
- 7 Detention Orders in Singapore: When Will They be Ordered?
- Day Reporting Order: Eligibility and Offender's Obligations
- Ragging and Bullying: Their Penalties and What Victims Can Do
- Laws Protecting Informers/Whistleblowers in Singapore
- Counterfeit Medicine/Health Products: Redress for Victims in Singapore
- Breach of Protection Orders: What Can Victims Do?
- Using Your Right to Self-Defence When Attacked in Singapore
- Compensation for Crime Victims in Singapore: How to Obtain
- Rape Laws in Singapore and How Offenders Can Be Punished
- Sexual Misconduct in Singapore: Offences and What Victims Can Do
- Falsely Accused of Rape in Singapore: What to Do
- Incest and Family Sexual Abuse: Penalties and Victim Protection
- How are Sexual Offenders with Special Needs Penalised?
- Cybersexual Crimes in Singapore and Their Penalties
- Legal Age for Sex in Singapore and Common Sexual Offences
- Consent in Sexual Offences in Singapore and What Victims Can Do
- Accused of Molest: Outrage of Modesty in Singapore
- What Can Victims of Sexual Harassment in Singapore Do?
- What is the Law on Sexting in Singapore?
- Revenge Porn: What If Your Nudes are Leaked in Singapore?
- Crime of Voyeurism in Singapore (Penalties and Defences)
- Date Rape: What to Do If Your Drink Has Been Unlawfully Spiked?
- STDs: Can I Go to the Police If a Partner Infected Me in Singapore?
- Singapore's Legal Smoking Age & Common Smoking Offences
- Is Vaping Illegal in Singapore?
- Legal Drinking Age and Drinking-Related Laws in Singapore
- Is Watching, Downloading or Filming Porn Illegal in Singapore?
- Child Pornography in Singapore: Offences and Penalties
- Laws on Procuring Sex Workers & Sexual Services in Singapore
- Singapore's Drug Laws: Possession, Consumption and Trafficking
- Gambling Legally (In Public or Online) in Singapore
- The Offence of Human Trafficking in Singapore and Its Penalties
- Penalties for Committing Theft in Singapore
- Committing Robbery in Singapore: What are the Penalties?
- Penalties for Dishonest Misappropriation of Property in Singapore
- Vandalism Laws: Penalties for Damaging Property in Singapore
- Criminal Trespass in Singapore: What Happens If You’re Caught?
- Penalties for Littering and Killer Litter Offences in Singapore
- What is a POFMA Correction Direction and How to Appeal
- Penalties for Cheating/Scamming and What Victims Can Do
- Penalties for Impersonating Someone and Victim Redress
- Singapore Fake News Laws: Guide to POFMA (Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act)
- Laws and Penalties for Doxxing in Singapore (With Examples)
- Tax Evasion in Singapore: Penalties and Examples
- Criminal Breach of Trust (CBT) in Singapore: What is It?
- All You Need to Know About Corruption in Singapore
- Anti-Money Laundering Laws and You
- 5 Things You Need to Know about Insider Trading
- Dishonest Assistance and Knowing Receipt: The Case of David Rasif
- Charged with a Traffic Offence in Singapore: What to Do
- DUI: Here are the Penalties for Drink-Driving in Singapore
- What Happens If You’re Caught Speeding in Singapore?
- Road Rage: What is It and How are Offenders Sentenced in Singapore
- Penalties for Dangerous Driving for Singapore Drivers
- Fatal Traffic Accidents: Are Drivers Always Punished?
- Guide to E-Scooter and PMD Laws for Singapore Riders
- Is it Legal for Drivers to Carpool in Singapore?
- Radicalisation and Terror Attack-Related Penalties in Singapore
- Public Assemblies and Processions in Singapore
- Misbehaving in Public: 5 Things You Need to Know
- Racial Enmity: Sections 298 and 298A Penal Code Explained
- Religious Cults in Singapore: Are they Illegal? Penalties & More
- Penalties for Financing Terrorist Operations in Singapore
- Here are the Penalties for Committing Forgery in Singapore
- Arson and Fire-Related Offences and Their Penalties in Singapore
- Laws on Prohibited, Replica and Self-Defence Weapons
- Penalties for Assaulting a Person in Singapore
- Expats Charged With Offences in Singapore: What to Expect
- What are the Penalties for Hiring Phantom Workers in Singapore?
- Penalties for Illegal Immigration and Overstaying in Singapore
- Criminal Intimidation: Penalties for Making Threats in Singapore