In Singapore we have two legal casinos – Resorts World Sentosa (RWS) and Marina Bay Sands which both opened in 2010. Our gambling law was modified in 2006 to allow these to be built. As the purpose of these was for tourism, they are viewed under our laws as integrated resorts. In addition to being home to casinos, the same properties have theme parks, museums, theaters, fine dining, spas and 5-star hotels.
Visitors with a foreign passport can enter RWS and Sands casino for free. For locals there is a $100 (SGD) entrance fee or an annual pass can be purchased for $2,000 (SGD). I will discuss more about these casinos, and the history of gambling in Singapore, in this article. First let’s take a look at online casinos in Singapore.
Singapore has 2 super casinos – from left to right, aerial view of the Marina Sands, Resorts World Sentosa
Internet casinos offer Singaporeans the best value. Here there are bonus offers on deposits, as opposed to having to pay to enter our integrated resorts. Before the government started tightening local laws, we even had access to online casinos from major countries such as the UK and Philippines. These days however, there are fewer options to choose from. There are still plenty of trustworthy sites that are licensed and regulated although the choice of games is less attractive than before.
While once we had access to the top slots by companies like Netent, Microgaming and Playtech, nowadays we only can only play games by RTG, Rival, WGS and Topgame. The one exception is Betsoft who are probably the top slot manufacturer to still offer games to Singapore online casinos. Players here also have access to live dealer games as well as all the most popular table games including baccarat and blackjack. We can also deposit and play in Singapore dollars (SGD). The sites listed below come highly recommended.
These sites are all very safe to use. Using www.uptownaces.eu as an example: this site is owned and operated by DeckMedia which has several online casinos and a long history of top service. They are government licensed and are essentially the best option for Singapore players.
The other sites we’ve listed have solid backgrounds too. Each is licensed and regulated by reputable gaming commissions. There are auditors that make sure player account balances are segregated from operating money and that the software is both fair and random. The latter applies to games such as slots, video poker, tai sai (sic-bo), craps, non-commission baccarat, three-card poker and the like. For the main games baccarat, blackjack and roulette there are also live dealer tables.
Live dealer games are played online, but there is a video feed of an actual real game. Here human dealers are in front of real gaming tables that are located in a dealer studio that is supervised by floor staff and a pit boss the same way it is done at Resorts World Sentosa and Marina Bay Sands. Players can watch the shuffle and deal of cards, and the spin of the roulette wheel, as well as all other actions online. In blackjack, the dealer asks each online player specifically if they want to hit, stand, double down, split, etc. They use the latest in webcam rendering technology to give you actual live feeds of everything as they happen. Live baccarat, live roulette, and live blackjack are featured at all the websites listed on this page.
To play online casino games, you’ll first need to open an account. This is easy. For example, visit www.uptownaces.eu and fill out the sign up form to register. Next a deposit is required. There are many deposit options that can found in the cashier.
Previously, we recommended an ewallet called Skrill – which is essentially an online bank account. You could add money to Skrill with VISA credit or Visa debit cards, as well as online bank transfers from DBS, UOB, OCBC, Citibank and BNU via eNets. However, Skrill is no longer available here for online gaming transactions.
There are still some easy options for depositing in Singapore. The first and most obvious ones are local debit and credit cards. All the casinos listed on this page accept Visa, Visa debit, Visa electron, prepaid cards, as well as Mastercard credit and debit cards. If by any chance you have an AMEX card, that is also a viable option. Unfortunately Unionpay and Paypal are not currently offered at any sites that take local players.
For the more tech savvy players, Bitcoin is the fastest growing deposit option. The cryptocurrency is now in widespread use and is becoming hugely popular among Singaporeans.
When you want to be paid, at any time, you can withdraw all or part of your account balance back to a card or via a paper cheque. If you use Bitcoins, the money can be withdrawn back to bitcoin.
The local deposit options are discussed in more detail in my article Sports Betting in Singapore.
One question often asked is whether online casinos are legal in Singapore. The answer is that they are neither illegal nor explicitly legal. The situation is such that our laws make no mention of online casino or online betting. Domestic companies do not offer it for the simple reason that it is a legal grey area and is too much risk to test.
Instead the betting sites we use in Singapore are based in other countries. With a population of only 5.2 million our government is much more concerned with attracting revenue from tourists than it is with losing some revenue to foreign internet casinos. As covered in the next section, while traditionally strict, our gaming laws have historically not been well enforced. Every day, players here in Singapore use overseas sites without any fears of legal problems.
In Singapore we’ve had a long history of being both opposed to and allowing gambling. Sir Stamford Raffles, the founder of our country, opposed it. When he left in 1820, Colonel William Farquar viewed it as a means of financing colonial police and other government expenses. The profit was made on licence fees charged to Chinese gambling houses and cock-fighting venues. In 1823 Raffles returned to Singapore and banned all forms of betting citing concerns of addiction, loan sharking, violence and other crimes associated with the activity.
In 1842 Singapore Sporting Club was established and held our country’s first horse race. This was renamed Singapore Turf Club in 1924. Originally private, in 1960 it became open to the public. On weekends the capacity attendance of 50,000 at the Bukit Timah Racecourse was often reached with ease. While many forms of betting including lottery were allowed during Japanese occupation of Singapore (1942-1945), Singapore horse racing was the only form still legal in 1960.
Despite the laws, gambling in Singapore has always been widespread. During the 19th century, the current China Street in today’s Central Business District (CBD) was called giao keng kau and was very popular for its gambling dens. Illegal lottery called Chap Ji Kee is a favourite with housewives. Colonials and upper class Singaporeans have long played roulette, while other games of chance such as HiLo (tai sai/sic-bo) and Si sek pai (四色牌) could then, and still today, can be found at betting stalls.
Skill games are also very popular in Singapore. Singaporean Mah-jong is probably the number one played game, but card games are common too. These include La Bi (Rummy), Cho Dai-D (Big2), Pusoy (Chinese Poker), and Blackjack. The bottom line is that no matter what the laws say – gambling has long been a part of Singapore culture.
Singapore became self-governing in 1959 and merged with Malaysia in 1963. We separated from Malaysia and became our own independent country in 1965. Our early governments also were also opposed to gambling. Act 2 of 1961 – named the Common Gaming Houses Act – made all forms of lottery and games of chance illegal.
As had proved the case throughout our history, the laws against did little to stop gambling. In order to counteract this, in May 1968 Singapore Pools was established to offer a legal lottery known as Toto. The following year they added a second lottery The Singapore Sweep, and in 1986 launched 4D (摇珠万字票). All three are still part of today’s Lottery in Singapore.
Singapore Pools now offers sports betting too. When our S.League football launched in 1996 our lottery was committed to supporting it. In 1999, SG Pools gained the approval required, and launched the betting product SCORE. This was followed three years later with the launch of STRIKE! in 2002. Today Singapore Pools works much like any other bookie (just the odds are not good when compared to online betting sites). They have approximately 300 betting shops and offer odds on S.League, other football leagues around the world and Formula 1 racing.
During the 1990s our country began offering certain organisations and clubs licenses to run jackpot rooms which feature jackpot machines and fruit slots. Organisations such as National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) Club, Automobile Association of Singapore (AAS), and Singapore Armed Forces Reservist Association (SAFRA) received the first licenses. 9 of the 12 S.League teams have their own jackpot club, plus Sinchi FC which has been out of the S.League for almost a decade is still operating one. As of 2013 there are approximately 100 licensed slot parlours.
At the time our first casino opened in 2010, there was alot of bad press, with regular articles suggesting that gaming was long illegal in Singapore. There was much disappointment from the Muslim and Christian community who feared the negative social impact that casinos would bring. However, as covered in this article, we already had 3 legal lotteries, sports betting, slot machines and also had scratch cards. That only covers the legal options! It doesn’t include Mah-jong, La Bi, Cho Dai-D, Pusoy, Blackjack, poker and games of chance played at gambling stalls.
In December 2004, concept bidding began for building the integrated resort in Marina Bay. There were 19 bids and four finalists which were Genting, Harrah’s, Sands and MGM. It wasn’t until 18 April 2005 that Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced the decision to develop casinos in both Marina Bay and Sentosa. Due to widespread opposition this was considered a major political risk, but he silenced the naysayers with talk on it’s potential benefits for the economy with the creation of 35,000 jobs and giving tourism in the country a much needed boost. On 26 May 2006, it was announced Las Vegas Sands won the Marina Bay bidding with a committed investment of $3.85 billion (SGD). They went on to invest over $5 billion (SGD) before their 23 June 2010 grand opening celebrations. Their casino opened after the one in Sentosa.
The bidding processes for Sentosa’s casino was not as drawn out. Three companies submitted bids which were 1) Eighth Wonder with Publishing and Broadcasting Limited, Melco International Development and Isle of Capri Casinos 2) Genting International with Star Cruises, Universal Studios and 3) Kerzner International with Capitaland. Genting was announced the winner on 8 December 2006. Resorts World Sentosa went on to open on the 20th of January 2010.
These two casinos worked out as planned in boosting tourism. The growth of our tourism industry had previously been stagnant. In 2007 we had 10,284,545 tourist arrivals which was a 5.5% increase from 2006. It then declined -1.6% and -4.3% the next two years. In the year our casinos opened (2010) we had 11,641,700 arrivals – a 20.2% over 2009. This increased again 13.1% in 2011 to 13,171,303. Although these casinos are controversial they have undoubtedly helped to reignite our once failing tourism industry.
Singaporeans looking to gamble often take the short trip to Malaysia’s Genting Highlands. This is only a 4 to 5 hour bus ride away for most of our population. It is also a very inexpensive area to visit. The hotels around Singapore’s integrated resorts are often priced 3-4 times higher than those in Malaysia. Of course, we can also gamble online with no travel cost or entry fees involved. Regardless of the option you choose, we wish you all the best at the tables.