SINGAPORE: Home Office (MHA) invites public to comment on proposed changes to gambling laws that cover social gambling, online gambling and claw machines .
The MHA is also proposing to increase penalties for repeat offenders who facilitate or operate illegal gambling services, and to change the definition of gambling so that it can cover emerging products.
The MHA said Monday (July 12) that it would change the legislation later this year to ensure Singapore’s laws and regulations remain effective in the face of changing gaming products and business models.
It comes after the ministry announced in April last year that it would be putting in place a new gambling regulator by 2021, as well as reviewing and amending gambling laws in the country. during the same period.
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Gambling crimes remain low, MHA said, with the number of people arrested for illegal gambling activities remaining stable from 2011 to 2020.
Problem gambling also remains “under control,” he said, noting that surveys show that the rates of problem and pathological gambling have remained relatively stable, at around 1%.
“To continue to enjoy these good results, we need to ensure that our laws and regulations can address two trends in the gaming landscape,” said MHA.
“First of all, technological advances. The internet and mobile computing have made gaming products more accessible.
“Second, the lines between gambling and gambling have blurred. Business models have adapted to changing customer preferences by introducing game elements into products that are traditionally not seen as gambling.”
The MHA has stated that it is currently taking a hands-on approach to gambling and will only regulate or prohibit where there is a risk to public order or the potential for social harm.
Therefore, the ministry intends to explicitly allow physical social play between family and friends as it poses “weak” problems for public order.
“We will take strong enforcement action against unions who exploit this exemption to conduct illegal gambling activities,” he said.
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Currently, the Joint Gambling House Act does not define private gambling, although it does prohibit gambling in a joint gambling den, which includes any place kept or used for gambling, habitual gambling, and the public lottery. .
“We recognize that play between family and friends in homes is socially acceptable among many Singaporeans,” MHA added.
The MHA has also considered allowing online social gambling between family and friends, including internet gambling, but will propose not to do so.
“The explicit exemption from online social gambling will pose difficulties of application, as it will be difficult to establish whether individuals know each other sufficiently and meaningfully in the online context to qualify as social gambling,” MHA said. .
Currently, the Remote Gambling Act prohibits online social gambling.
ONLINE GAMES WITH VIRTUAL PRIZES
For online games, MHA is focusing on those that allow virtual items to be transferred and potentially to be exchanged for cash or cash on an exchange hosted by a third party.
MHA proposes to introduce conditions to ensure that transferable virtual objects are maintained in the context of gaming and entertainment, as intended by game developers.
“Online games of chance which allow players to use virtual items from other games as a form of betting on casino games or match results, such as skin betting sites, will not be authorized, “he said.
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The MHA is also proposing to allow in-game monetization facilities for free-to-play games, where players do not have to pay to play or receive virtual prizes, subject to conditions similar to those imposed for promotional sweepstakes. currently exempted.
The proposed changes come as it is increasingly common for online games and video games to incorporate micro-transactions into the game like loot boxes that can look like gambling, MHA said.
Currently, the law does not consider these games of chance with virtual prizes to be gambling until there are in-game monetization facilities that allow players to redeem virtual prizes for payouts. real.
MYSTERY BOXES, ARCADE GAMES AND NAIL MACHINES
MHA proposes to introduce a cap of S $ 100 on the value of prizes for mystery boxes, arcade games and claw machines.
“This cap will be sufficient to combat the incentive effect of high value prices, without increasing the regulatory burden on operators,” he said.
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It comes as mystery boxes, arcade games, and claw machines have started offering high-value prizes that can be easily redeemed for cash, like smartphones and game consoles.
This has the potential to induce gambling behavior, especially since these machines might have elements of luck, MHA said.
“We are careful not to over-regulate. We recognize that many Singaporeans view mystery boxes, arcade games and claw machines as a form of entertainment,” the ministry added.
“However, there remains a need for safeguards to ensure that these activities do not induce gambling behavior and cause social problems.”
The MHA proposes to increase penalties for repeat offenders who facilitate or operate illegal gambling services to increase deterrence. The increased penalties will not apply to bettors of illegal gambling services “for now,” he said.
The Remote Gambling Act currently provides for a three-level penalty structure for illegal online gambling. The heaviest penalties are imposed on operators, because their guilt is greater than that of agents, followed by punters.
The MHA also proposes to apply this penalty structure to all forms of gambling activity, in order to ensure consistency between online and physical gambling activities.
DEFINITION OF THE GAME
Finally, the MHA proposes to modify the definition of gaming to make it technologically neutral, so that it can cover existing and emerging gaming products.
Currently, the definition of gaming differs across different pieces of legislation, as these were enacted at different times and for different gaming products, MHA said.
“This broader definition of gambling may, however, cover products that the MHA does not intend to treat as gambling products, for example financial products already regulated by the Monetary Authority of Singapore,” he said. he adds.
“We will extract these products from the definition of the game.”
The public can submit comments by August 10 by email to MHA_Gambling_Feedback [at] mha.gov.sg.