Current gaming laws prohibit online casinos in Singapore, but that has not stopped many international gambling websites from offering their services to Singaporeans nonetheless. Although a general prohibition on online gambling enacted by the Remote Gaming Act of 2014 remains in effect to this day, there are many offshore sites citizens can visit to play real money casino games.
Changes to the law prompted some of the most popular names in online gambling to leave Singapore, but a few stalwarts remain active in the market contrary to local law. Each of the following online casinos does accept Singaporeans:
Despite the ease of access to online casinos in Singapore, players should proceed with extreme caution. The Remote Gambling Act includes text that outlaws being involved in gambling both as a player and as an operator. Theoretically, it is possible to be fined and jailed if you are caught playing at unauthorized casino websites.
Part 2 of the Remote Gambling Act states that any individual who participates in illegal online gambling is subject to up to six months in jail and/or a $5,000 fine. People who operate unlicensed online casinos in Singapore face even harsher sentences of up to seven years in prison and a fine of $20,000 to $500,00.
The extent of actual enforcement of this law as it applies to individual players is difficult to determine, but lawmakers must have included the text for a reason. Although we are happy to tell you which casino sites accept Singaporeans, we cannot guarantee that gambling online is a safe thing to do at this point in time.
Sadly, these harsh punishments for gamblers are just one part of a three-pronged effort to thwart Singaporean casino sites. The Remote Gambling Act also includes payment blocking and internet censorship provisions in an effort to make it as difficult as possible to access unauthorized gambling websites.
Legal Online Betting in Singapore
The Remote Gambling Act does include provisions by which the government can exempt individual operators from the prohibition and authorize them to conduct online gambling for Singaporeans.
Anyone may apply for a certificate of exemption to offer online gambling in Singapore, but exemptions are only granted if the Minister believes it to be “in the public interest.” The remote gambling act lays out the guidelines by which the Minister can determine if issuing an exemption is in the public interest:
- Whether the applicant is established, incorporated, registered or otherwise based in Singapore so as to aid the enforcement of any condition of the certificate of exemption
- Whether any director or key officer of the applicant has been convicted of one or more offences in Singapore which the Minister believes would make the applicant unsuitable
- Whether the applicant is a not-for-profit entity that distribute the moneys forming part of its fund to public, social or charitable purposes in Singapore
- Whether the applicant has a consistent track record of compliance with legal and regulatory requirements in Singapore or elsewhere
The remote gambling bill also notes that the Minister is not confined to just these considerations in determining the suitability of an applicant.
To date, the government has granted just two exceptions. One exception was granted state-owned lottery provider Singapore Pools. They went live on 25 October, 2016 and allow customers to play 4D and Toto and to bet on association football and motor racing. The ability to bet on anything online is a nice start, but gamblers must still look elsewhere to play real money casino games. Singapore Pools is limited strictly to the lottery games, football and motor racing betting.
The other exemption was granted to the Singapore Turf Club, which conducts horse races and oversees horse racing betting in Singapore. The Singapore Turf Club is the only operator allowed to offer horse racing wagering, and it too was granted permission to accept wagers online.
Overall, the online betting options in Singapore are still quite limited. These two exemptions to the Remote Gambling Act combine to give customers a chance to play the lottery, bet on football, bet on motor sports and bet on horse races online. Every other form of online wagering (including casino games) remains prohibited.
Although the options are limited, it is encouraging to see Singapore accept the reality of online gambling and make even these small moves towards legalization. Our hope is that lawmakers see that online betting isn’t such a terrible thing after all, and once they see the income earned by regulating these forms of online betting, they become more accepting towards the idea of legalizing casino sites in Singapore.
Singapore does have a strong anti-gambling contingent that has expressed its disdain with the two exemptions granted thus far. The National Council of Churches of Singapore has been especially critical of the move, saying that the government is sending mixed signals with the partial lift of the ban on online gambling. They have also expressed concerns related to gambling addiction and its potential effects on society.
The government, on the other hand, contends that there needs to be some legal outlet for gambling demand in Singapore or else it will all go underground. Minister for Home Affairs Desmond Lee has argued that it is impossible to completely block access to illegal gambling websites. He contends that it would be better for the government to have some oversight rather than leave the industry to its own devices underground and unregulated.
Desmond Lee also compared gambling to drinking and smoking. In November of 2016, he said “although we discourage drinking and smoking, we do not have a complete ban. Instead, we manage the potential harm through regulations and public education.”
Arguments similar to his have been made all around the world whenever the debate over online casinos and betting has come up. If it’s going to happen anyways, the argument goes, the government might as well regulate it and try to minimize the harmful impacts (and create a lucrative new tax revenue stream for treasury coffers).
Whether or not tax revenues are the primary driving factor, his argument does make sense. This same argument may one day be used if the government ever decides to issue exemptions for Singaporean casino sites.