Singapore Debuts New Social Gambling Laws, Home Poker Games Now Illegal

Posted on: August 1, 2022, 07:19h. 

Last updated on: August 1, 2022, 12:16h.

Singapore is launching new social gambling rules. Beginning today, inviting friends over for an impromptu poker game is no longer illegal.

Merlion at the Singapore River
Merlion, Singapore’s world-famous landmark, at Marina Bay. The country is modernizing its gambling laws to better define the industry. (Image: Nations Online Project)

There is now a new Gambling Regulatory Authority (GRA) in place in the country. It will oversee all forms of gambling. It replaces the previous Casino Regulatory Authority and has more autonomy to establish policies and protocols for the industry.

This includes forming definitions of legal, social gambling. Under the new laws, social gambling refers to physical events, not digital. And under the GRA, hosting a friendly mahjong tournament or poker game is legally on the table.

However, there are some conditions. The games must occur in someone’s home, not a commercial property. In addition, they cannot be part of any business-related activity.

Over the past few years, Singapore has been working on an upgrade to its gambling laws. Previously, hosting a home poker or mahjong game that included wagers wasn’t necessarily illegal, but operated in a grey area. The new Gambling Control Act (GCA) eliminates that doubt for some activities.

Land-Based Gambling Changes Coming

Going forward, private businesses that want to host gambling activities, like betting or lotteries, will need a license. The GRA is responsible for issuing the licenses and will investigate the applicants who apply.

It will also monitor those establishments to ensure they follow the rules. Among these is a ban on proxy betting. This is a common, albeit not widespread, practice that allows a gambling addict to circumvent the controls that prevent him or her from entering a gaming floor.

A gambler faces fines for using a proxy gambler, as does the proxy. In addition, casinos can be held accountable as well.

The GRA is going to introduce new class licenses to cover different forms of gambling – a lottery to promote a business doesn’t need to be in the same class as a casino. However, any form of gambling, except social, will now require a license. Violators can anticipate severe financial penalties from the GRA, even for minor infractions.

More Gambling Laws

In Singapore, gamblers must be at least 21 years old, except those visiting Singapore Pools locations. The lottery and sports betting shops can welcome anyone 18 or older. However, there is no minimum age for participation in social games.

Online social gambling remains illegal.

The GRA, police, the Ministry of Social and Family Development and the National Council on Problem Gambling will collaborate to ensure social gambling and other forms don’t get out of hand.