Social Gambling, Such as Blackjack or Mahjong With Friends, to Be Legalised Soon


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Even laws and regulations are adapting to new trends, as social gambling may be legalised soon.

New regulations for modern forms of gambling like mystery boxes, online games with gambling elements, and lucky draws will be introduced as well.

Wait, Social Gambling Was Illegal?

It wasn’t illegal, but it wasn’t explicitly legal either.

With the new Gambling Regulatory Authority of Singapore Bill and Gambling Control Bill, it will set clear parameters for what is acceptable and what isn’t.

Read in Parliament on Monday (14 February), it would legalise physical social gambling among family and friends, with no age limit.

The requirements include the participants being members of the same family or friends. Gambling also has to take place in an individual’s home and not in the course of any business.

Do take note that this is only for physical social gambling, as online social gambling continues to be prohibited.

So while your Chinese New Year blackjack and mahjong sessions weren’t exactly illegal, it’ll be legal soon.

Clearer Regulations for Gambling Under GRA

Gambling in Singapore is regulated by several agencies like the Casino Regulatory Authority, the Tote Board and the Singapore Police Force.

However, if the Bills are passed, it will see the setting up of a new Gambling Regulation Authority (GRA) to regulate the entire gambling landscape in Singapore.

Under the GRA, there will be the introduction of a licensing framework for key products like gambling in private establishments and Singapore Pools.


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The licensing framework will also be extended to lower-risk products like mystery boxes, online games with gambling elements and lucky draws. These products won’t be individually licensed, and will instead have safeguards imposed.

So if you’re a fan of mystery boxes, prizes might be capped at $100 soon to curb any growing gambling addiction.

Introduction of New Offences

There will be new offences introduced in the new Bills as well, including offences relating to underage gambling and exclusion from gambling:

  • Operators found to have allowed underage or excluded individuals to gamble will be liable for an offence or disciplinary action.
  • Minimum gambling age will be set at 21. (Except Singapore Pools, which has a minimum age of 18 for its products and outlets.)
  • Proxy gambling, or gambling through someone else, will also be seen as an offence.

The Bills also have a three-tiered penalty framework to deal with offenders, based on their level of culpability. Operators will have the highest culpability, followed by agents then punters.

Under this framework, operators and agents for physical and online gambling could face mandatory imprisonment if they commit any offences. Longer imprisonment terms and higher fines will also be imposed for repeat offenders.

A consistent standard will be applied for advertising and promotion for both online and physical gambling, with offences for both types being treated equally.

GRA as a More Holistic and Coherent Approach To Gambling Issues

The Ministry of Home Affairs has stated that it aims to set up the GRA by mid-2022.

It said that allowing some forms of gambling in controlled and safe environments is the best way to minimise the social harms of gambling, as banning gambling totally will just result in more underground gambling.

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The GRA will thus help Singapore to stay ahead of trends and take a more holistic and coherent approach to gambling issues.

Together with the new Bills, the Ministry of Social and Family Development has also stated that they’ll strengthen social safeguards for gambling.


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This includes protecting those who are financially vulnerable and receiving financial support. The Ministry will also be partnering with social service agencies that have gambling rehabilitation programmes.

They will also up efforts for preventive education by collaborating with the National Council on Problem Gambling.

Over the years, the problem gambling scene in Singapore has remained relatively stable. The number of people arrested for unlawful gambling has remained at 1,000 a year since 2011.

Problem and pathological gambling rates have also been stable, falling from 3% in 2008 to 1% for the past half-decade.

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