Gambling Control Act Passes in Singapore, But Most Wagering Activity Is Still Prohibited

The Gambling Control Act 2022

Singapore has passed a new set of gambling legislation designed to bring the country’s wagering laws up to date with current trends in the global marketplace. The Gambling Control Act 2022 recognizes shifts in gambling habits across the world, including more recently developed betting technologies and practices, and seeks to update the Southeast Asian nation’s response to these changes.

Under the act, social gambling in a non-commercial physical environment — such as card games in a private residence with friends and family — has been legalized. Other activities, such as proxy gambling, in which bets are placed in a regulated casino via a third party, have been criminalized. The penalties for transgressing gambling laws have also been made more severe, with some offenses carrying custodial sentences.

Recognizing a Changing Technological Landscape

Outside of these changes, the most significant development from the Gambling Control Act 2022 is a new legal definition for betting and wagering. The act recognizes that individuals may use many different types of digital technology to access gambling services and ensures that these digital solutions now fall within the remit of the law.

So, while the latest development in the country’s gambling legislation does permit some forms of gambling, it has effectively enhanced the prohibition of online gambling in Singapore. Those who want to engage in online betting in the Asian nation can do so, but only with a select few licensed properties, and the potential for legal online gambling remains extremely limited.

The government of Singapore has previously shown itself to be tough on unregulated online betting. Back in August 2015, the government cracked down on unlicensed online wagering, blocking access to the websites and apps of some of the world’s premier providers, such as Bet365. 

The Gambling Control Act 2022 is broad in scope but essentially doubles down on this restriction of unlicensed wagering within the country. Under the new definition of gambling, any individual acting as a proxy through which others can place bets will be penalized by law enforcement, even if they are placing bets with providers based outside of Singapore itself.

Online Gambling in Southeast Asia

The legal moves represent the latest shift in Southeast Asia’s uneasy relationship with online gambling. In 2020, fellow ASEAN nation, Cambodia, opted to end the licensing of online casino gambling within the country — a program that had only been introduced five years earlier. Vietnam has also been reluctant to adopt online gambling regulation, and the Asian nation only permitted physical casino gambling for its own citizens as recently as 2018. Other countries in the region, such as Thailand, Brunei, and Indonesia, operate blanket bans on all gambling, while Malaysia does permit some online gambling, but only for non-Malaysian visitors.

Online gambling in Asia — particularly Southeast Asia — is not likely to experience the rapid changes in legal status witnessed in other regions around the world, such as in the United States, any time soon. For the moment, the region’s various governments are focusing on generating some degree of revenue through wagering while simultaneously maximizing control and restriction.

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