IMGL Magazine April 2022

Singapore market reform

New licensing regime for key gambling products, lower-risk gambling products The GRA which is set to be the new regulator for all forms of gambling, will soon be able to issue different types of gambling operator licences, including licences for the following: a. specified kinds of gambling; a. specified kinds of betting operations, conduct of gaming or conduct of lotteries; a. gambling, or betting operations, conduct of gaming or conduct of lotteries, undertaken in or in connection with specified types of gambling venues; a. facilities of a specified nature, or adapted or presented in a specified way, and used for purposes of gambling; a. specified types of gaming machines; and a. specified types of gambling articles (other than gaming machines) or prizes. For instance, the GRA is empowered to issue licences for key gambling products such as fruit machines, betting and lottery products such as those operated by Singapore Pools (both terrestrial and online), and gambling at private establishments. In determining the grant or renewal of licence to an applicant, the GRA will have regard to, inter alia, the financial capacity and ability of the applicant to provide the gambling service in accordance with the applicable requirements and standards, as well as the suitability of the applicant and all of its responsible executives and key officers. This is similar to the probity assessment carried out by the Casino Regulatory Authority on casino operators and international market agents under the Casino Control Act 2006. The GCA also introduces a new class licensing regime under which the Minister may issue such licences to operators offering lower-risk gambling products such as mystery boxes (to which the earlier mentioned S$100 prize cap applies). This reduces the burden on such operators who will no longer need to be individually licensed. It is expected that more details will be provided in future subsidiary legislation which will specify the conditions applicable for the grant of such class licences, including limits on gambling hours, advertisements requirements, frequency of the gambling service, and management of the gambling service. New offence of proxy gambling Previously, it was possible for a punter, as the decision-maker, to send a proxy to gamble on the decision-maker’s behalf in casinos or fruit machine rooms. Such an arrangement

chance for a prize, and a computer server wherever located that allows Singapore residents to play games of chance for a prize. This could impact companies which provide hosting or maintenance services and whose customers include gambling operators. Legalisation of social gambling While terrestrial gambling amongst family and friends is commonplace in Singapore, it has never been expressly permitted under the law. The GCA now seeks to legalise all forms of non-remote social gambling provided that all of the following criteria are met: a. The gambling is conducted by an individual in premises that are either the individual’s home or another individual’s home in Singapore; a. Participants are either family members or individuals who know each other personally; a. The gambling is substantially spontaneous, even though it may occur regularly, habitually or by arrangement between the individuals involved; a. The gambling is not promoted or conducted by or for the private gain of any person not participating in the gambling or in the course of any business; and a. The gambling is conducted so that the only way a participant in the gambling can make a profit or gain any other benefit as a result of the gambling is by winning. This represents a departure from the previous position set out in the Common Gaming Houses Act 1961 proscribing the operation of common gaming houses, which could include one’s residential premises in which social gambling activities are carried out. It is clear that only terrestrial social gambling is exempted under the new laws, as contrasted to remote social gambling that is still illegal under the GCA. This distinction is perhaps understandable as the explicit exemption of online social gambling could pose significant enforcement difficulties, particularly in determining whether individuals are sufficiently and meaningfully acquainted with each other personally. That said, the legalisation of non-remote social gambling is not without its own set of challenges. For instance, it remains to be seen how authorities will define what constitutes spontaneous non-remote gambling, or the yardsticks for assessing whether individuals know each other personally. Further clarification on the abovementioned criteria is necessary in order to clearly delineate legally permissible social gambling from unlawful gambling activities within residential premises.

26 • IMGL Magazine • April 2022

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