Singapore is a city-state in Southeast Asia that has long banned gambling. Today the gambling business in Singapore is only partially legalized. The legislation defines provisions that allowed several operators to organize the work of land-based casinos and online bookmakers. At the same time, the government imposes rather strict restrictions on both the provision of services in the gambling industry and their use. That, however, did not prevent Singapore from gaining the status of the third largest gambling zone, after Las Vegas and Macau.
The history of the development of the gambling business in Singapore
Gambling in Singapore was legalized in 1823. At that time, the city was a colony of Britain, a country that allowed participation in gambling. However, the permit did not last long. After just three years, almost all types of gambling business were banned. The exception was the government lottery Singapore Pools.
This situation persisted for several decades. The economic crisis that broke out in the country at the beginning of the 2000s forced the government to reconsider its opinion on this issue.
A new gambling bill was considered in early 2005.
The process of consideration and adoption of the bill was accompanied by fierce discussions and controversies. Representatives of various religious cultures and employees of social organizations opposed the legalization of the gambling business in Singapore. They noted the likelihood of a negative impact of gambling on the social environment, in particular, the possibility of an increase in crime.
The government pointed to the prospects for growth in the tourism industry and, as a result, a possible increase in financial revenues to the budget. In 2006, a final decision was made to partially legalize gambling.
The legal framework was developed specifically for the creation of two large resort casino hotels. The provisions of the laws enshrine the licensing system, set up departments whose tasks include control and regulation of the activities of gambling establishments, and define restrictions and prohibitions.
The largest casinos in Singapore
It took five years to build, equip and organize the first casinos in Singapore. In 2010, two prestigious establishments were opened at once:
- Resorts World Sentosa casino – the country’s largest gambling and entertainment complex was built on Sentosa Island. The territory of the complex occupies more than 15 thousand sq. M. The casino has over 1,000 tables and over 2,500 slot machines. Guests are offered the opportunity to check into comfortable hotel rooms, visit water parks, an amusement park, a museum
- Marina Bay Sands, built on the coast of Marina Bay, opened a few months later. The casino hotel is owned by Las Vegas Sands. The famous architect Moshe Safdie worked on the design of the establishment. The complex consists of three high-rise towers. At an altitude of about 200 meters, a huge infinity pool, a park, an observation deck, and a museum are equipped. Over 600 tables and over 1,500 slot machines are installed directly in the casino. There are several VIP lounges for high rollers. In addition, on the territory of the complex guests will find a hotel, restaurants, cinemas, bowling, and other entertainment venues.
Both Singapore casinos are world famous and are in the TOP of the most expensive and prestigious casinos in the world.
They are currently ranked at the top of the list of the most expensive casinos in the world. Several million guests – fans of gambling – come here every year. According to statistics, the opening of establishments has increased the tourist flow by almost 30%. And, accordingly, noticeably increase the level of profitability of the state.
Applicable gambling legislation in Singapore
Despite the successful development of the industry, the gambling business in Singapore is regulated as strictly as possible and with all possible restrictions. By opening access to gambling in the country for foreign tourists, the government tried to protect its own citizens from gambling.
Today gambling business in Singapore is regulated by four laws:
- about gambling;
- about private lotteries;
- sports betting;
- about sweepstakes and bets.
In general, the provisions of these acts rather prohibit the organization of gambling business and participation in gambling. But with a caveat. Gambling may be permitted by other by-laws.
There is an interesting provision in the legislation of Singapore. To obtain a license to carry out activities in gambling, it is necessary to issue the so-called “exemption from the law.”
Singapore casino licensing terms
The actual licensing terms are spelled out rather intricately. One of the clearest requirements established by the Casino Control Act is the exact designation of the limit on the number of licenses issued – up to two. And both have already been received by the aforementioned establishments Marina Bay Sands and Resorts World at Sentosa. In other words, there seems to be no new casinos to appear in Singapore in the near future.
On the other hand, the Law on Private Lotteries declares that the issues of issuing permits are considered individually in each specific case. CRA, one of the Singapore gambling regulators, can issue licenses if applicants and their assistants are found to be eligible.
Great attention is paid to the selection of a potential operator. Regulators evaluate applicants on a number of criteria:
- whether the applicant and his assistants have a decent reputation;
- whether the operator and its partners have sufficient financial resources;
- how “transparent” are the sources of funds origin;
- how successful the applicant is in the business sphere, whether he is able to maintain the life of the casino;
- with whom the potential organizer of the gambling business cooperates;
- how worthy is the reputation of the applicant’s partners.
Any questions regarding the financial, professional and personal situation of the applicant can be considered. The whole process is accompanied by the provision of a package of documents confirming the accuracy of the information provided.
The CRA commission deals with these issues collectively. The team of specialists includes three or more representatives of the department, appointed by the minister.
There is also no clearly established procedure for applying for an exemption from the Act. A corresponding statement should be sent to the official responsible for issuing permits. In what format should the documents be drawn up. And also the duration of the license – from 3 to 10 years – is determined by the responsible officer of the department.
Restrictions on visiting casinos
Prohibitions and restrictions regarding gambling are spelled out as clearly as possible by the legislation:
- visiting the casino is prohibited for citizens under the age of 21;
- foreigners can visit the casino for free. Singapore citizens are required to pay an entrance fee – USD 100 per day for each visit or USD 2000 per year for a membership in a particular casino;
- visiting gambling houses is not available to people with low incomes or bad credit history;
- restrictions on playing in the casino can be imposed at the request of the player’s family members. It is allowed to define a specific limit of visits per month;
- players can independently write a statement imposing a ban on their participation in gambling. It is impossible to withdraw the application earlier than the deadline specified in the document.
In addition, gambling establishments are prohibited from holding any promotions aimed at attracting customers. The casino security service undertakes to closely monitor the compliance of visitors with current requirements. Operators must file official reports on any suspicion of a violation of the law. Failure to comply with the requirements entails the imposition of very significant fines.
Gambling Regulators in Singapore
Several agencies are responsible for complying with the provisions of gambling laws:
- The CRA is a regulatory body under the Casino Control Act. The agency has the authority to issue licenses and regulate any operations in land-based establishments;
- The Singapore Tote Council is an organization that oversees the activities of the main betting operators: Singapore Pools and Singapore Turf Club;
- Ministry of Social and Family Development, National Gambling Council. Agencies are engaged in activities in the field of minimizing potential problems caused by gambling;
- MHA (Ministry of the Interior), MAS (Financial Authority of Singapore), MDA (Media Development Authority) – services are engaged in remote gambling, website blocking and payment issues.
According to the government, the division of responsibilities between several departments allows for maximum efficiency in the regulation of the gambling business.
Online gambling in Singapore
The situation with online gambling in the country is much more complicated. Officially, all types of remote gambling are banned.
The first attempts to legalize online gambling were made by operators in 2013. However, the government resolutely refused to pass the relevant bill. The authorities have tried to take the most effective measures to close access to online games, including placing bets from mobile devices. Among other things, regulators block gambling sites and prohibit payments.
According to the country’s leaders, online gambling can be a good way to launder money obtained as a result of illegal activities. In addition, the closure of access to online casinos prevents the emergence of gambling addiction.
In 2015, another attempt was made to legalize online gambling. But with the same result. The Singapore government is pushing for a ban on gambling. However, in 2016, two companies still managed to obtain licenses to operate online. Well-known local operators Singapore Pools and Singapore Turf Club became licensees. The permit was obtained under the aforementioned “exemption from the Law” scheme.
However, both operators specialize exclusively in organizing lotteries and accepting bets. The possibility of playing table games and online slots on the websites of companies is not currently being considered.
In addition, companies undertake to comply with the numerous aforementioned requirements:
- accept players at least 21 years old;
- carefully check the information provided, without fail to verify accounts;
- refuse to play on credit;
- set daily spending limits;
- refuse to hold promotions;
- report any suspicious transactions and changes in behavior to account holders;
- fulfill a number of other requirements.
Licenses were obtained by operators for a period of 3 years. The possibility of extending the validity of the documents will be considered based on the results of the work.
Singapore online casinos
However, de facto Singaporeans have access to online casinos. As explained by government officials, it is quite problematic to track all foreign platforms and block access to the site.
Analytical studies conducted among users of Singapore online casinos show the following results:
- at least one third of users play online gambling at least once a year;
- 58% of visitors to gambling portals are men;
- 64% are middle-aged users 25-44 years old.
Today, most of the well-known European online platforms receive visitors from Singapore. Moreover, international operators advise their Asian colleagues to help legalize online gambling by providing appropriate recommendations to the country’s government.
It is difficult to say how promising is the development of the gambling business in Singapore. On the one hand, casinos bring a very tangible income to the state budget – and this is an argument in favor of the development of the gambling industry.
However, in recent years, casino profits have fallen by 12%. According to forecasts of a number of analytical companies, the Singapore government will refuse to renew the current licenses. The reasons for this decision may be the high risks of various social problems and the uncertainty of the prospects for the tourism market.
The licenses of Singapore casinos will expire in 2017. And the further development of the gambling business largely depends on the final decision of the authorities regarding the issuance of new permits.