Singapore’s decision to criminalise proxy gambling involving anyone not physically present in a casino or slot hall premises in the city-state, was mostly about tying up a loophole left in earlier legislation, several industry commentators told GGRAsia.
“I think Singapore wants to exercise the tightest possible control over its casino licensees,” said David Green.
He added, referring to the process that led to the city-state’s Casino Control Act in 2006, and then the opening of two casino resorts in 2010: “Legalisation in 2005 was premised on the minimisation of harm and the prevention/elimination of criminal influence from the casinos.”
Mr Green is founder of Newpage Consulting Ltd and a former gaming regulator in Australia. He is also a former adviser to the Macau government on gaming.
Singapore has a casino duopoly, split between Marina Bay Sands, run by a unit of United States-based Las Vegas Sands Corp, and Resorts World Sentosa, operated by Genting Singapore Ltd.
Industry consultant Ben Lee told GGRAsia that in his opinion, “Singapore has the tightest anti-problem gambling measures in the world,” in addition to an entry levy applicable to Singapore citizens and permanent residents.
“This looks like another step” in the “direction,” of firmer control he added, referring to the proxy gambling issue.
Mr Lee is founder of casino industry consultancy IGamiX Management & Consulting Ltd.
The new criminal offence of proxy gambling, or of facilitating proxy gambling relating to casino-based games, will carry a penalty of up to one year in prison, or a fine of up to SGD10,000 (US$7,400), or both.
The latter provision in the new Gambling Control Bill – which had its first reading in Singapore’s parliament on February 14 – is described as an amendment to the city-state’s Casino Control Act.
Mr Lee told GGRAsia he thought the likelihood was “low” that the proxy topic had anything to do with Singapore’s diplomatic relations with China.
China has specifically mentioned blacklisting places that seek to target its residents to participate in either land-based or online gambling.
Mr Lee said it was more likely Singapore’s step was to “address local issues” that might have “cropped up” on the “radar” of the city-state’s authorities.
Singapore’s Ministry of Home Affairs had mentioned in a February 14 press release about the Gambling Control Bill, that there had been a situation in 2019 where an excluded individual had asked a friend to place wagers at a gaming machine in a casino on her behalf.
“We were unable to take these individuals to task, as proxy gambling was not previously criminalised,” noted that press release.
In the Macau casino market, official concerns about proxy gambling have encompassed anti-money laundering issues.
Mr Green thought Singapore’s criminalisation of proxy play was focused on “protection of consumers, and further restricting the prospect of the casinos being used to enable money laundering or the financing of terrorism”.
Mr Lee stated the Singapore authorities had “always been proactive” in governance of the casino industry. He added it were possible they were “wanting to close off any loopholes”.
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