Remote Gambling Act – how it will affect online gambling in Singapore

The Remote Gambling Act was passed on 7 October 2014, designed to strictly regulate the various forms of online gambling in Singapore. The Act will outlaw remote gambling provided by non-exempt operators. The full text of the bill passed by Parliament can be accessed here.

What is gambling?

Gambling is defined to mean betting, gaming, or participating in a lottery. Gaming in turn is defined as playing a game of chance for money or money’s worth. A game of chance includes both games of chance (eg. roulette), and games of mixed chance and skill (eg. blackjack). Games of chance include single player games.

Remote gambling offence in Singapore

It is an offence under the Act to gamble in Singapore using remote communication and using a remote gambling service not provided by an exempt operator. The penalty is a fine not exceeding S$5,000 or imprisonment for a term not exceeding 6 months or both.

Blocking of gambling websites

The Act will empower the authorities to require internet service providers to block access to non-exempt gambling websites. A unit under the Minister of Home Affairs will review and update a list of websites that will be blocked.

Blocking fund transfers to and from unauthorised gambling websites

The MAS can require banks and financial institutions to block fund transfers to and from unauthorised gambling sites.

Advertising of online gambling services

Advertising of online gambling services is made illegal under the Act.

Remote gambling providers

The Act also criminalises the activity of providing remote gambling services with a Singapore customer-link (i.e. if any of the customers are physically present in Singapore), or Singapore-based remote gambling services. Agents and syndicates of unauthorised online gambling sites will also be penalised.

Operator licensed and authorised to provide such services will be exempted from sanction.

Exempt operator license

Singapore-based operators can apply for an online-gambling license to provide remote gambling services to Singaporeans, if the Minister considers it to be in the public interest to do so. Applicants stand a good chance if they are based in Singapore, not-for-profit, contribute to a good social cause, and have a good compliance track record. Most casino-style games, including poker, will still be banned.

Young persons

Young persons (anyone below 21) in Singapore are afforded additional protection: it will be an offence to employ young persons to carry out activities in connection with remote gambling services. It will also be an offence to invite, cause, or permit young persons to engage in remote gambling, unless the accused took reasonable precautions to ascertain the person’s age and reasonably believed that he was not a young person.

Controversy over the wide ambit of the Act

Because of the wide definition of “gambling” under the Act, some observers have expressed concern that certain varieties of video games could be categorised as such. Minister S. Iswaran said in Parliament that the Act was not intended to deal with social games where players do not play for a chance to win money.

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