New law won't hit social games like FarmVille

New law won't hit social games like FarmVille
A screenshot of FarmVille, an online game that allows players to manage a virtual farm. Apart from planting and harvesting crops, players can earn “farm coins” to buy seeds, animals, buildings and decorations.

SINGAPORE - The new Remote Gambling Act, which outlaws remote gambling activities here, does not cover games so long as players cannot win cash prizes from them.

The Media Development Authority said yesterday that online games which do not have any in-game facility to convert virtual goods and currency into real money will not fall foul of the new regulations.

It also clarified that the Act does not prohibit leader boards - which rank and reward top players - or tournaments where players can win prizes or money in real life, as long as they are not "casino-style" games.

So, games like FarmVille and Candy Crush Saga - in their current forms - are not affected.

This is in response to concerns from those in the video games industry that the Act would cover social games and affect their business.

Under the Act, which was passed in Parliament in October, it will be illegal to gamble online on unauthorised websites or to provide such services.

The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) said in a statement yesterday: "The objectives of regulating remote gambling are to maintain law and order, and to minimise the potential harm of remote gambling, especially to young people and other vulnerable people."

It added that websites that provide, facilitate, advertise or promote remote gambling services will be blocked from Monday. Payment transactions related to unlawful remote gambling activities will also be blocked.

At least three banks here - DBS Bank, OCBC Bank, and United Overseas Bank - said that they already block payments to online gambling sites.

Meanwhile, Singapore-based operators can apply for an online-gambling licence, but they must be not-for-profit, contribute to a social cause and have a good compliance track record.

MHA said it has not received any application for the exemption so far. A spokesman for Singapore Pools said the lottery operator has not applied for it as "no information" has been released.

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