Gambling in Singapore
Gambling in Singapore is partially legal a city state in South-East Asia which has forbidden participation in gambling for a long time. Today, Singapore's gambling business is only partially legalized. Legislation defines the provisions that allowed several operators to organise land-based casinos and online bookmakers. At the same time, the government imposes restrictions in Singapore both on the provision of services in the gambling industry and on their use. That, however, did not prevent Singapore from winning the status of the third largest gambling zone after Las Vegas and Macau and ensuring this state of affairs to the benefit of all is the state of the current gambling business law in the country.
Casinos in Singapore
The construction, arrangement, organisation of the first casinos in Singapore took five years. Two prestigious institutions immediately opened in 2010: Casino Resorts World Sentosa - the largest gambling and entertainment complex of the country is built on the island of Sentosa. The complex occupies more than 15 thousand square meters. The casino has more than 1,000 tables and more than 2,500 slot machines. Guests are offered to book comfortable hotel rooms, visit water parks, an amusement park and a museum. Marina Bay Sands built on the coast of Marina Bay opened in a few months. The hotel-casino belongs to the company Las Vegas Sands. The famous architect Moshe Safdie worked on the design of the casino. The complex consists of three high-rise towers. There is a huge infinity pool, a park, a viewing platform, a museum at an altitude of about 200 meters. Over 600 tables and more than 1,500 slot machines are installed directly in the casino. It has several VIP halls for high rollers. In addition, guests can find hotel, restaurants, cinemas, bowling and other entertainment options on the territory of the complex Both casinos in Singapore are world famous and included in the TOP of the most expensive and prestigious casinos in the world. Currently, they occupy top spots in the ranking of the most expensive casinos in the world. Every year, a few million guests come here - fans of gambling. According to statistics, the opening of casinos has increased the tourist flow by almost 30% and, accordingly, significantly increase the income to the budget.
Gambling in Singapore was legalised in 1823. At that time, the city was a colony of Britain, a country that allows participation in gambling. However, the permit did not last long. Only three years later, almost all types of gambling have been banned. The exception was the government lottery of Singapore Pools. This situation continued for several decades. The economic crisis that erupted in the country at the beginning of the 2000s forced the government to reconsider its opinion on this issue. The new act on gambling was introduced in early 2005. The process of consideration and adoption of the bill was accompanied by bitter discussions and disputes. Representatives of various religious cultures and employees of social organisations opposed the legalisation of gambling in Singapore. They noted the likelihood of the negative impact of gambling on the social environment, in particular, the possibility of increase in crime. The government pointed to the prospects for the growth of the tourism industry and, as a result, the possible increase in financial revenues to the budget. In 2006, a final decision to partially legalise gambling was made. The legislative framework was developed specifically for the creation of two large resort hotel-casinos. Provisions of the law define the licensing system, organise departments whose tasks include monitoring and regulating the activities of gambling institutions, determine restrictions and prohibitions.
Despite the success of the industry, gambling in Singapore is regulated very tightly and with all possible restrictions. Having opened access to gambling in the country for foreign tourists, the government tried to protect its own citizens from it. To date, gambling in Singapore is governed by four laws on: gambling, private lotteries, sports betting and sweepstakes and betting. In general, the provisions of these acts rather prohibit the organisation of gambling business and participation in gambling. But they have a reservation. Gambling can be allowed by secondary legislation. The legislation of Singapore has an interesting provision. To obtain a license for providing gambling services, it is necessary to get the so-called "exemption from the law".
The terms of licensing are quite complicated. One of the clearest requirements set by the Casino Control Act is the exact limit for the number of issued licenses - up to two. And both have already been received by the mentioned institutions Marina Bay Sands and Resorts World at Sentosa. In other words, in the near future, as it seems, we do not have to expect the emergence of new casinos in Singapore. On the other hand, the Private Lotteries Act declares that the issues of issuing permits are considered individually in every specific case. CRA - one of the regulators of the gambling business in Singapore can issue licenses if the applicants and their assistants are recognised as eligible. A potential operator is chosen with a great deal of attention. Regulators evaluate applicants on a number of criteria:
- Whether the applicant and his assistants have a worthy reputation
- Whether the operator and his partners have sufficient financial resources
- How "transparent" are the sources of the funds
- How successful the applicant is in the business sphere, whether he is capable of supporting the life of the casino
- With whom the potential organiser of the gambling business cooperates
- How worthy is the reputation of the applicant's partners
Any questions concerning the financial, professional and personal situation of the applicant can be considered. The entire process is accompanied by the provision of a package of documents confirming the credibility of the information provided. The Commission of the CRA considers the issues mentioned before collectively. A team of specialists includes three or more representatives of the department appointed by the minister. A clear procedure for applying for exemption from the law is also unavailable. The relevant application must be sent to the official responsible for issuing permits. The format of the documents, as well as the duration of the license - from 3 to 10 years - are determined by the responsible officer of the department.
Limitations on visiting a casino
Legislation clearly prescribes bans and restrictions on gambling:
- Citizens under 21 years are prohibited to visit casinos
- Foreigners can visit casinos for free Singaporean citizens are required to pay entry fee - USD 100 per day for each visit or USD 2,000 per year for membership in a particular casino
- People with low incomes or bad credit history are not allowed to visit casinos
- The restriction on playing in a casino can be imposed upon the application of the family members of the player. A specific limit of visits per month is allowed
- Players can independently write a statement on banning their participation in gambling. It is impossible to withdraw an application earlier than the deadline specified in the document
In addition, casinos are prohibited to build advertising campaigns aimed at attracting customers. The casino security service undertakes to closely monitor the conformity of visitors to the current requirements. Operators must report any suspicions of law violations. Failure to comply with requirements entails very substantial penalties.
Several agencies fulfil obligations for observing the provisions of laws on gambling:
- CRA - a regulatory body operating on the basis of the Casino Control Act. It has the right to issue licenses and regulate any operations in land-based casinos
- Singapore Tote Board - an organisation that controls the activities of the main betting operators: Singapore Pools and Singapore Turf Club
- Ministry of Social and Family Development, National Council on Problem Gambling. These offices are engaged in activities in the sphere of minimising potential problems caused by gambling
- MHA (Ministry of Home Affairs), MAS (Monetary Authority of Singapore), MDA (Media Development Authority) - services are engaged in remote gambling, blocking of websites and payments matters
According to the government, the division of responsibilities between several agencies allows achieving maximum efficiency in regulating gambling business.
Online gambling in Singapore
The situation with online gambling in the country is much more complicated. Officially, all kinds of remote gambling are banned. The first attempts to legalise online gambling were undertaken by operators in 2013. However, the government absolutely refused to adopt the corresponding law. The authorities tried to take the most effective measures to block access to online games including making bets from mobile devices. Among other things, regulators block gambling websites and prohibit payments. According to the leaders of the country, online gambling can serve as a good way of laundering money obtained as a result of illegal activities. In addition, banning access to online casinos prevents ludomania (Gambling Addiction). Another attempt to legalise online gambling was made in 2015. It ended in the same way. The Singapore government insists on banning gambling. However, in 2016, two companies still managed to obtain licenses to conduct online activities. The licensees were well-known local operators: Singapore Pools and Singapore Turf Club. The permit was obtained according to the above mentioned "exemption from the law". However, both operators specialise exclusively in arranging lotteries and accepting bets. The possibility of playing table games and online slots on the websites of companies is not currently considered. In addition, companies undertake to comply with the numerous above-mentioned requirements:
- Serve players no younger than 21 years
- Carefully check the information provided, mandatory verification of accounts
- Refuse to play on credit
- Set daily spending limits
- Refuse to conduct advertising campaigns
- Report any suspicious transactions and changes in behaviour to account holders
- Fulfil a number of other requirements
Operators received licenses for a period of 3 years. The possibility of extending the validity of documents will be considered based on the results of the work. However, de facto Singapore citizens have access to online casinos. As representatives of the government explain, tracking all foreign platforms and blocking access to a website are quite problematic. Analytical research among users of online casinos in Singapore shows the following results: at least one-third of users at least once a year play online gambling, 58% of visitors to gambling portals are men and 64% are middle-aged users aged 25-44 To date, most of the famous European online platforms accept visitors from Singapore. International operators advise their Asian counterparts to contribute to the legalisation of online gambling by providing appropriate recommendations to the government of the country.
Development of the Gambling Market in Singapore
It is difficult to say how promising the development of gambling business in Singapore is. On the one hand, casinos bring a very notable income to the state budget and this is an argument in favour of the development of the gambling industry. However, in recent years, the inflow of funds from casino profits has decreased by 12%. According to the forecasts of several analytical companies, the Singapore government will refuse to extend the existing licenses. The reasons for this decision may be high risks of the emergence of various social problems and uncertain prospects of the tourist market. The validity period of Singapore's operating casino licenses expires in 2017. The further development of gambling business largely depends on the final decision of the authorities on the issue of new permits.