DPP appeals against man's casino offence acquittal

S'porean had paid $100 entry levy, but did so using friend's name

IS A person considered to have paid the $100 levy to enter a casino if the payment was made under someone else's name?

The question is being deliberated by the High Court as it mulls over an appeal by prosecutors in the case of a Singaporean man who paid the levy and entered a casino using a friend's identity card.

Teo Choon Chai, 25, had pleaded guilty to four counts of entering the Marina Bay Sands casino under false pretences and was sentenced to four weeks' jail.

However, he was acquitted of four separate counts of non-payment of the entry levy after he contested the charges in a trial.

The prosecution appealed yesterday to quash the acquittal, arguing that payment of the levy is invalid if made under another person's name.

Judicial Commissioner See Kee Oon reserved judgment and will give his decision at a later date.

Under the Casino Control Act, a citizen or permanent resident is required to pay a $100 levy in order to enter a casino.

Anyone convicted of entering a casino without paying the levy faces a maximum fine of $1,000 and also has to cough up the levy.

However, the statute does not explicitly spell out whether the entry levy must be paid under the person's own identity.

In the current case, Teo had lost his identity card, so he used a friend's to enter the casino on three occasions in August 2013.

Each time, he paid the levy under the friend's identity. He was detained by a security officer on Sept 4, 2013, when he tried to enter the casino using the same method.

Last year, he was cleared of the non-payment charges by a district judge, who found that the law did not specifically state that payment of the levy is invalid if made under another person's name.

The district judge noted that paying the levy using another person's name would not undermine the objective of deterring casual and impulse gambling.

But yesterday, Deputy Public Prosecutor Leong Weng Tat argued that the law must be construed to mean that payment of the levy is invalid if made using another person's name.

He argued that a person's identity is an essential part of the entry levy regime, which is part of wider social safeguards against problem gambling, and the district judge's interpretation opens a back door for excluded persons to try to enter casinos.

However, lawyer Arvindran Manoosegaran, appointed by the court to give an independent view, agreed with the district judge that a person does not commit an offence of non-payment if he pays the levy under another person's name.

selinal@sph.com.sg

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 27, 2015, with the headline 'DPP appeals against man's casino offence acquittal'. Print Edition | Subscribe