Recently in the news, we have been observing a quiet increase in people being caught for illegal betting and gambling in singapore.
Where exactly does the law draw the line in terms of when a friendly poker game between friends (whether online or in someone’s home) becomes illegal? We hope to leave you with a bit of clarity here, so you don’t knowingly break the law the next time you decide whether or not to join your ‘kaki’ for some mahjong.
Mahjong with Family and Friends
Generally, if you are playing mahjong at home with friends and family, or games involving stakes and odds with money exchanged, it may not be considered illegal gambling. This is seen in the landmark case of Chua Seong Soi v Public Prosecutor  SGHC 195, where our (then) Chief Justice ruled that a game of mahjong between friends is not illegal gambling, but seen as a form of recreation.
Where the line is drawn
However, if the unit is dedicated solely to gambling (as defined under Section 2 of the Common Gaming Houses Act: any place kept or used for gaming to which the public or any class of the public has or may have access, and any place kept for habitual gaming), it will be in violation of the act. The owner or operator of such a ‘gaming house’ can be fined between S$5,000 and S$50,000, and jailed for up to 3 years.
- Police investigating 22 people for illegal betting, breaching safe distancing rules written by admin December 4, 2020 12:09 pm SINGAPORE – Police are investigating 22 people for their suspected involvement in illegal betting activities and for breaching safe distancing measures under the Covid-19 (Temporary Measures) (Control Order.
- THE BUSINESS TIMES illegal gambling - Find illegal gambling News & Headlines, insight and analysis in Singapore, Asia-Pacific & global markets news at The Business Times.
If you are found to be participating in such a ‘gaming house’, you can be fined up to S$5,000 or jailed up to 6 months.
In addition to this, if you are found guilty of this offence during this period between 7 April 2020 and 1 June 2020, you will also be in violation of Section 6 of the COVID-19 (Temporary Measures) Act and may be fined up to S$10,000 or jailed for up to 6 months or both!
Singapore News - When police raided a flat in Chay Yan Street in Tiong Bahru on Saturday night, they found a man having sex with a woman believed to be an illegal sex worker. The officers used a.
If you are charged or under investigation for such offences, you should consult a criminal defence lawyer immediately to know your legal rights and explore the possible options moving forward. Our team of experienced criminal defence lawyers at Gloria James-Civetta & Co will guide and navigate you through these complex legal situations.
Possible reasons for increased offences
It is no coincidence that the rates of recent ‘den busts’ making the news have significantly increased. Due to Circuit Breaker measures, which have been introduced to prevent the spread of COVID-19, a lot more people are stuck at home with nothing much to do.
Illegal Gambling Statistics
Worse, online gambling provides an avenue for gamblers who will always find a way to gamble, especially given the closure of Singapore Pools during this period.
We also note that Circuit Breaker has affected innocent citizens in other ways, for example, those who have lost their jobs or income due to lay-offs and companies contracting. For these people, unfortunately, gambling becomes a way to earn their livelihood. In these situations, gambling is really not the answer.
Rather, these people could explore their options in terms of the various government subsidies available to them. They are also urged to approach the National Council on Problem Gambling for additional support if theirs is indeed a serious addiction.
by Chia, Joshua Yeong Jia
Illegal Gambling Shooting In Brooklyn
Even before the two casinos in Marina Bay Sands and Resorts World Sentosa opened in 2010, Singaporeans had been gambling away billions of dollars each year.
A report published in 2005 revealed that Singapore Pools, a state-linked lottery operator in Singapore, had a yearly turnover of S$4 billion, which worked out to S$11 million per day.1 Another report published the same year found that, excluding illegal betting or speculation in stocks or derivatives, at least S$7 billion was spent on gambling in Singapore in 2004.2 A survey conducted by the Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports between end 2004 and early 2005 indicated that 58 percent of Singaporeans aged 18 years and above had gambled over the past one year, with 2.1 percent showing signs of gambling addiction.3 A typical gambler wagered an average of S$244 every month. The lottery games offered by Singapore Pools were the most popular, with 4-D, Toto and Singapore Sweep taking the top three spots and over 30 percent of Singapore residents participating in these games.4
Gambling and common practices
Motorists and passers-by have been observed recording the four-digit registration numbers of vehicles involved in accidents in the hopes of winning the 4-D lottery. Some punters have even appeared at the scene of murders and at the funerals of murder victims to pray or to look for lucky numbers.5 There has been at least one complaint made to the press about television charity shows being akin to gambling because they offered donors the chance of winning prizes.6
Social gambling – including mahjong, card games, and other games played with friends and family involving money – came in fourth, with a 17-percent participation rate. Scratch It!, a scratch-and-win game launched in 2004, gained quick popularity with 12-percent participation rate.7 According to the 2005 report by MSF, table games and slot machines in local and overseas venues, sports betting, horse betting and online gambling were less popular gambling activities in Singapore. However, more money was spent on these activities. An average of S$387 and S$288 were spent every month on sports betting and table games (on cruises and in casinos) respectively, while only S$93, S$48, and S$27 were spent on 4-D, Toto, and Singapore Sweep respectively.8
On 18 April 2005, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced the government’s approval of the development of two “integrated resorts”, which would combine casinos with other entertainment facilities, at Marina Bayfront and Sentosa.9 The first casino, located within the Resorts World Sentosa integrated resort, opened on 14 February 2010. The second casino, housed in the Marina Bay Sands integrated resort, opened two months later on 27 April 2010.10 By 2013, the combined gross gaming revenue of the two casinos in Singapore had reached S$7.66 billion. In spite of this, Singapore Pools’ turnover for 4-D, Toto, Singapore Sweep and sports betting continued to grow, reaching S$6.34 billion in 2015.11
A survey conducted by Ngee Ann Polytechnic in 2003 revealed that two-thirds of Singaporeans between the ages of 40 and 59 did not believe that they had sufficient savings for retirement, and that almost 40 percent were counting on winnings from Toto and 4-D bets for their retirement funds.12 A national study conducted in 2010 found that the elderly in Singapore were not any more prone to gambling addiction than other age groups, but nevertheless singled them out as vulnerable because they tended to have more free time and disposable income.13 In 2015, the Thye Hua Kwan Problem Gambling Recovery Centre and the National Addictions Management Service at the Institute of Mental Health reported a 60-percent increase in cases of problem gambling between 2012 and 2014, compared to the period between 2009 and 2011. The government attributed the increase to greater public awareness about problem gambling and the promotion of help-seeking behaviour.14
Joshua Chia Yeong Jia
1. Even without a casino, Singaporeans love gambling to death. (2005, April 17). Agence France Presse. Retrieved from Factiva via NLB’s eResources website: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg
2. Long, S. (2005, July 2). Beast within gambling. TheStraits Times, p. 9. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
3. Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports. (2005, April 13). Report of survey on participation in gambling activities among Singapore residents, 2005. Retrieved 2017, July 17 from Ministry of Social and Family Development website: https://www.ncpg.org.sg/en/pdf/publications-survey-gambling05.pdf
4. Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports. (2005, April 13). Report of survey on participation in gambling activities among Singapore residents, 2005. Retrieved 2017, July 17 f.m Ministry of Social and Family Development website: https://www.ncpg.org.sg/en/pdf/publications-survey-gambling05.pdf
5. The Sunday Times 4-D and the sick. (2005, June 26). TheStraits Times, p. 24. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Even without a casino, Singaporeans love gambling to death. (2005, April 17). .ence France Presse. Retrieved from Factiva via NLB’s eResources website: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg|
6. Lian, W. J. J. (2005, July 2). Giving to charity is now like gambling. TheStraits Times, p. 15. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
7. Ministry of Communication Development, Youth and Sports. (2005, April 13). Report of survey on participation in gambling activities among Singapore residents, 2005. Retrieved 2017, July 17 from Ministry of Social and Family Development website: https://www.ncpg.org.sg/en/pdf/publications-survey-gambling05.pdf; Fong, T., & Goh, S. (2004, December 4). Scratch fever hits hopeful punters. The Straits Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
8. Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports. (2005, April 13). Report of survey on participation in gambling activities among Singapore residents, 2005. Retrieved 2017, July 17 from Ministry of Social and Family Development website: https://www.ncpg.org.sg/en/pdf/publications-survey-gambling05.pdf
9. Government of Singapore. (2005, April 18). Statement by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on integrated resort on Monday, 18 April 2005 at Parliament House. Retrieved from Ministry of Trade and Industry website: https://www.mti.gov.sg/MTIInsights/Documents/Ministerial%20Statement%20-%20PM%2018apr05.pdf
10. Sim, A. (2010, April 30). 36,000 visit Marina Bay IR in first 24hrs. TheBusiness Times, p. 4; Ramchandani, N. (2010, February 16). Casino opens with a bang, queues raise whimpers. TheBusiness Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
11. Tan, T. (2015, February 8). S’pore punters spend US$5.9 million on bettings in a year. The Straits Times. Retrieved from Factiva via NLB’s eResources website: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/
12. Leong, C. T., & Almenoar, M. (2004, December 18). Can you afford to retire?TheStraits Times, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
13. Lim, L. K. (2012, November 6). Elderly not more prone to gambling: Study. The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
14. Problem gambling: 60% more cases seen in last 3 years. (2015, July 14), Channel NewsAsia; Siau, M. E. (2015, July 14). Close to 60% rise in problem gambling cases seen at designated help centres: Chuan-Jin. Today. Retrieved from Factiva via NLB’s eResources website: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/
Pereira, B. (1991, May 13). $2b gambled away by Singaporeans. TheStraits Times, p. 20. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
Singapore says ‘yes’ to two integrated resorts with casinos. (2005, April 18). Channel NewsAsia. Retrieved from Factiva via NLB’s eResources website: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg
The information in this article is valid as at 2015 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.
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