The Singapore government is to introduce stricter rules about the availability and use of slot machines in the city-state’s social clubs.
Any clubs that do not meet a new test regarding the scope of their non-gaming amenities will be required to cease slot machine operations by April 30, 2018, said the Ministry of Home Affairs in a statement.
The aim is to ensure that slot machine areas are only part of club social activities, Home Affairs and Law Minister K. Shanmugam said at a Thursday briefing, as quoted by the Straits Times newspaper.
“Our sense is that some [clubs] sort of pay lip service to the need to provide other services and focus on the jackpot machines as their primary objective. That, we cannot allow,” the minister reportedly stated.
According to the news outlet – citing the ministry as the source – there are now approximately 82 “jackpot venues” and almost 1,900 “jackpot machines” in Singapore – understood to be a reference to slot club facilities. The number of machines could drop by around a third with the new rules, indicated the ministry. Singapore also has two casino resorts that are subject to a variety of social safeguards designed in particular to mitigate the risk of harm to local gamblers.
The Straits Times said – citing local reports – that several Singapore football clubs that have not played in the country’s S-League for some years continued running slot machine rooms with gross incomes ranging from SGD165,000 (US$120,700) to SGD11.3 million.
Thursday’s announcement by the Ministry of Home Affairs stems from a review announced in August 2016 during a parliamentary debate.
The ministry said in a press release posted on its website that the new rules included: more stringent criteria for what it termed “fruit machine permits”; a reduction for “many clubs” in the number of machines they can run; and – from November this year onward – stricter rules about who can use them.
At present, a club may be allowed to operate slot machines if the club provides at least two other recreational facilities.
The ministry said: “Over time, a number of clubs have relied on fruit machines as a major activity. This is not in line with the intention of allowing clubs to operate fruit machines only as an ancillary part of a broader suite of social and recreational offerings to club members.”
It added: “Many clubs will see a reduction in the number of fruit machines they can operate. The reduction in the number of fruit machines will be phased-in over the next two years.”
From November 2017, entry to slot machine areas at clubs will be restricted to individuals who “hold membership terms of at least one year”, and are 21 years old or above. Currently those aged 18 years and above are allowed to use them.
Additionally, club members will not be allowed to bring guests into slot machine areas; and the operating hours of those zones will be limited to between 10am and 11pm.
From May 2018 onward, the social clubs will be required to ensure that any gamblers subject to the self-exclusion scheme operated by the National Council on Problem Gambling cannot get access to their facilities. They will also be required to enforce any self-exclusion order relating specifically to social club slot rooms. Persons with casino exclusions due to their financial situations or family objections will also be excluded from clubs’ slot machine areas.
The Straits Times reported that “those who flout criteria” may be penalised under the Private Lotteries Act and face fines of up to SGD20,000 and a jail term of up to one year.
The ministry said in its press release it would additionally implement “responsible gambling measures”, including barring installation in slot machine areas of automated teller machines (ATMs), Electronic Funds Transfer at Point of Sale (EFTPOS) systems and credit card facilities.
There will also be restrictions on club slot machine advertising and promotion.
“We will further prohibit advertising and promotion of fruit machines within the clubhouse and on the Internet and other media platforms,” stated the ministry.
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Chief executive of the Australia-based Gaming Technologies Association