Mystery prize vending machines are now prohibited in Singapore, according to a statement made by local authorities cited by news outlet the Straits Times. A ban on the machines is being rolled out because their amount has grown tremendously over the last year and at least four operators of such devices have been found to have set up business in shopping malls, retail stores, and arcades throughout the city-state.
Generally speaking, the machines in question induce arbitrary non-monetary prizes upon receiving a money payment by players. The “mystery box” awards that they dispense are often of low price, but operators of the machines often market them as ones that offer customers the chance to win big prize such as gaming consoles and smartphones.
According to a Thursday announcement by the local authorities, the devices represented a form of lottery and were therefore breaching provisions of the Common Gaming Houses Act. The statement further study that operators of such vending machines were advised to cease their operations. Under Singapore’s gaming laws, violators of its provisions face prison time of up to five decades and fines of between S$20,000 and S$200,000.
The machines originally gained popularity in Japan, Malaysia, and Taiwan, but have quickly taken off across Singapore over the past year, the Straits Times reports.
Claw Machines Not Betting
Police explained that ldquo;mystery box” machines, those at arcades that allow customers to grab a decoration with a claw in exchange for a certain fee, are not considered illegal gaming. The motive was that players can easily find the prizes they are paying and playing for.
When asked whether other forms of mystery boxes, such as ones provided on e-commerce platforms, should be deemed gaming, authorities said it is up to the public to look for legal counsel on matters of this type.
Commenting on whether mystery prize vending machines posed a threat to players, dependence specialist Thomas Lee advised the Straits Times he didn’t think the risks of dependency were big. He went on to say the only real danger is that children can get hooked up and spend money on these.
According to the expert, the notion behind gaming is that people wager on a random outcome, on something they do not have control over, and it doesn’t really matter whether there is something in the end or not, since it’s still gambling.
The Straits Times additional reports that mystery prize vending machines across a number of shopping malls, arcades, and stores have been removed overnight, following the Thursday announcement from law enforcement. However, there were still several facilities that featured the devices, with their owners claiming they didn’t know that those were currently prohibited.