Gambling in Asia remains to be a controversial issue up until now, with countries in the region taking ultimately varying paths in terms of restrictions. Some countries including Macau, Philippines and nearby Australia have taken advantage of the increasing demand and have grown to be gambling hotspots in recent years, while destinations like China, Singapore, and South Korea continue to uphold strict gambling laws.
While Singapore is home to two of the best casinos in Asia, Lion City locals find gambling less accessible given the imposed fee of SGD 100 (~USD 73) each time they visit a property. Gambling in a social setting however, is more common and widely accepted as a recreational activity, and is moving to be less risky for fun-searching individuals.
MHA’s proposal to update gambling laws
A press release dated last July 12, 2021 from the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) revealed its intention to amend current gambling laws later this year to address growing trends in the gambling landscape. The proposed changes tackle four different aspects of the current legislation – definition of gambling, social gambling, games with gambling elements, and penalties across gambling legislation.
Among the changes, the most significant amendment stands to be social gambling being “explicitly permitted under legislation”, brought about by its low potential to cause social harm. Online gambling on the other hand, is exempted from the following proposed changes and will remain under strict guidance.
“It is not practical nor desirable to disallow all forms of gambling, as this will just drive it underground and cause more law and order issues”, it stated.
Further adding, “We recognise that gambling amongst family and friends in homes is socially acceptable amongst many Singaporeans, and poses low law and order concerns. Hence, we are proposing to exempt physical social gambling among family and friends, subject to conditions that safeguard against criminal exploitation.”
Entertainment gaming including the likes of mystery boxes, arcade games and claw prizes will likewise see a few adjustments and face a new SGD 100 prize cap “to address the inducement effect of high-value prizes, without increasing the regulatory burden on operators.” A raise in penalties for repeat offenders found guilty of facilitating or operating illegal gambling services is also among the proposed amendments, subject to public feedback.
Good news for poker enthusiasts
Despite poker not being specifically mentioned in the proposed updates, poker players geo-located in Singapore will similarly benefit from the more open social gambling legislation. Private games in a home set-up will begin to be increasingly tolerated and allow locals to engage in the game more freely than before.
Currently, only Resorts World Sentosa offers live poker games whilst limited. The invitation to engage in a friendly game of poker under less risks regardless if rake-free, can still be viewed as generally good news for local poker enthusiasts and at the same time, boost the game’s popularity within the community.