A popular social pastime among many Singaporeans is playing mahjong or poker with friends at home. While this was not illegal before, it also was not explicitly allowed.
But that will soon change. The Gambling Regulatory Authority of Singapore Act (GRA Act) and the Gambling Control Act (GC Act), which were passed on 11 Mar, will take effect from tomorrow (1 Aug).
It will explicitly allow social gambling among family and friends at home, but will not extend to online gambling as it is difficult to establish relationships between players.
Social gambling allowed under GC Act from 1 Aug
According to the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), under the new bills, the GRA will replace the Casino Regulatory Authority and regulate all gambling in Singapore, besides casinos.
Besides licences for gambling services like betting, lottery, and slot machine rooms, it’ll also cover social gambling among family and friends. There is no age limit for social gambling, but it must take place in a home and cannot be conducted in the course of any business.
MHA said if anyone tries to exploit this to conduct illegal gambling activities, the police will take action against such criminal syndicates.
Punishments have also been updated to include a three-tier penalty structure.
Operators will receive the highest penalties, followed by agents and then punters. There will also be enhanced penalties for unlawful gambling.
Enhanced measures for underage gambling
There are also enhanced safety measures in place to curb underage gambling under the GC Act.
MHA said it is a criminal offence under the GC Act for underage individuals to gamble at licenced or unlawful operators. They are also not allowed to enter gambling areas except for places with no entry checks, such as Singapore Pools’ physical outlets.
This is because these outlets are considered “open areas”, where underage people may unintentionally enter even if they had no desire to place bets.
Even though it is currently an offence for “excluded individuals” to enter and gamble in casinos, the GC Act now applies to those who enter and gamble across all online platforms and physical locations where National Council for Problem Gambling (NCPG) exclusions take effect.
For instance, these include gaming machine rooms and Singapore Pools’ online gambling platforms.
It is good news for people who gamble socially at home with family and friends. All-night mahjong sessions won’t be considered illegal.
But if you try to use that to run a gambling syndicate, the law will catch up to you. So gamble socially.