Plans to broaden scope of laws on gambling

The definition of gambling differs across the different laws here, but the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) intends to amend it to cover a broader scope that will be technology-neutral.

In a statement yesterday, the MHA said it is also seeking to amend laws relating to social gambling, mystery boxes, arcade games and online games later this year.

It said that because of technology, gambling products have become more accessible.

As a result, the laws need a broader definition of gambling so that they can cover existing and emerging products.

The MHA noted that a broader definition may unwittingly cover products such as financial products that are already regulated by the Monetary Authority of Singapore.

To prevent this, the ministry said it will carve out these products from the definition of gambling.

As for social gambling, it recognises that family and friends gambling at home is a socially acceptable practice among Singaporeans.

Thus, it intends to exempt such activities, provided they fulfil all the exemption criteria.

The criteria listed by the MHA are as follows: The gathering must be for a social occasion and there must be a real relationship among participants; the gambling is not for the purposes of trade or business; the activity is not for the private gain of any person other than the extent of the game's winnings; and the activity is conducted in enclosed areas of private residences, provided that participants are invitees of the owner or tenant.

But while MHA intends to exempt such activities when they are conducted in person, it proposes that online social gambling still not be permitted, owing to enforcement difficulties.

Another key area the ministry intends to amend relates to games with gambling elements.

  • Key proposals

  • Social gambling

    • Physical social gambling among family and friends to be allowed, subject to criteria

    • Online social gambling among family and friends not allowed

    • Strong enforcement action against syndicates that exploit exemption

    Mystery boxes, arcade games, claw machines

    • Prize cap of $100

    Online and video games

    • Virtual items to remain in context of gameplay and entertainment

    • Gambling, betting, wagering with virtual items not allowed (that is, skin-betting sites, which involve the use of virtual cosmetic game items to make wagers, are to be banned)

    • In-game monetisation for free-to-play games allowed, subject to conditions similar to those of business promotion lucky draws


    • Differentiation between operators, agents and punters, in decreasing order of culpability

    • Raised penalties for repeat offenders who are operators and agents, to increase deterrence

    • No raised penalties for punters who are repeat offenders, as enforcement efforts are to focus on enablers

    Definition of gambling

    • Broadened to cover existing and emerging gambling products

    • Technology-neutral

    • Products such as financial products regulated by the Monetary Authority of Singapore to be carved out from definition

    David Sun

It proposes a $100 prize cap on mystery boxes, arcade games and claw machines to address the inducement effect of high-value prizes.

It also proposes that the laws be updated to address online games with loot boxes and virtual skins, and intends to introduce conditions to ensure such transferable game items remain in the context of gameplay and entertainment.

It proposes that games of chance that let players use transferable game items to gamble, such as skin-betting sites, be banned.

However, it also proposes that in-game monetisation facilities for free-to-play games be allowed, but that these be subject to conditions similar to those of lucky draws by businesses.

It said that penalties for repeat offenders should be raised, but that the focus should be on those who facilitate such services, and not those who simply participate.

The MHA said Singapore adopts a strict but practical approach to its regulation of gambling.

"It is not practical nor desirable, in fact, to disallow all forms of gambling, as this will just drive it underground and cause more law-and-order issues," it said.

"Instead, we license or exempt some gambling activities, with strict safeguards put in place."

Gambling-related crimes remain low, with casino crimes comprising less than 1 per cent of all crimes since the integrated resorts here began operations in 2010.

Problem gambling in Singapore also remains under control, according to surveys by the National Council on Problem Gambling.

The MHA said views and suggestions from the public are welcome, and the full report on the proposals can be found at

The public can submit feedback to MHA by Aug 10, and may do so by e-mailing, or by writing to the MHA at New Phoenix Park, 28 Irrawaddy Road, Singapore 329560. The subject of their mail should be "Re: Gambling Legislation Consultation".

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 13, 2021, with the headline Plans to broaden scope of laws on gambling. Subscribe