Casino levy paid under false ID still valid

A person is considered to have paid the $100 levy to enter a casino even if the payment had been made under a false identity, the High Court has decided.

The issue was raised in the case of 25-year-old Teo Choon Chai, who was given four weeks' jail earlier this year after pleading guilty to four counts of entering the casino under false pretences, under Section 175A of the Casino Control Act.

Teo had paid the entry levy and entered the Marina Bay Sands casino using his friend's identity card.

He had faced another four counts of non-payment of the entry levy but was acquitted of the charges last year after a trial.

On Wednesday, Judicial Commissioner See Kee Oon dismissed the prosecution's appeal against Teo's acquittal. In his grounds of decision issued yesterday, he upheld the district court's stand that the law did not state that the payment of the levy is invalid if made under another person's identity.

Under Section 116(6) of the Casino Control Act, a citizen or permanent resident is required to pay a $100 levy to enter a casino. Anyone convicted of entering a casino without paying the levy faces a maximum fine of $1,000 and would also have to pay the levy.

But the statute does not explicitly state whether the levy must be paid under the person's own name.

In August 2013, Teo had lost his identity card and used a friend's ID card to enter the casino on three occasions. He was detained by a security officer the following month when he tried to enter the casino using the same method.

The prosecution argued that Teo's acquittal would impede the enforcement of the casino's exclusion order.

Since casino operators rely on a person's identity card to ascertain whether he has been excluded, a person's identity has to be taken as the "cornerstone" of the entry levy system, the prosecution added.

The prosecution further argued that if it is an offence to enter the casino under a false name, it must be also an offence to pay the entry levy using another person's identity.

However, the judicial commissioner maintained that there was no link between the entry levy and the exclusion order.

He added that unlike the entry levy requirement, which applies to all Singaporeans and permanent residents, the exclusion order is targeted at specific individuals only.

These individuals would not be allowed to enter the casino even if they had paid the levy.

Judicial Commissioner See said that there was a difference between a fraudulent entry and a fraudulent payment. He said that Teo had made a fraudulent entry. However, Teo's offence did not amount to a fraudulent payment, or non-payment, since he had paid the levy to enter the casino.

Judicial Commissioner See also thanked lawyer Arvindran Manoosegaran, an amicus curiae (friend of the court) who was not involved in the case but highlighted to the court that the provisions under Section 116(6) and 175A were intended for different social goals.

This article was first published on August 16, 2015.
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