Published: 07 February 2017
Mr Sitoh Yih Pin: To ask the Minister for Home Affairs (a) whether the police conducts any additional checks or applies additional considerations when approving applications for a massage establishment licence to operate in/around residential areas; and (b) in view of the risk of vice-related activities being conducted at massage establishments, whether all massage establishments can be restricted from operating in/around residential areas.
1. There are three different categories of Massage Establishments (ME) under Police's licensing framework – Category I, Category II and Exempted MEs. Only MEs with a Category I licence, which has more stringent licencing conditions; or those under the "Exempted" category, which has low risk for vice activities, are allowed to operate in residential areas.
2.Category I MEs are subject to more stringent qualifying criteria than Category II MEs. The criteria for Category I MEs include CaseTrust accreditation and a capital investment of at least $50,000. These conditions ensure that the applicant is a genuine business owner who is willing to invest capital to run a legitimate massage business.
3. The "Exempted ME" category is for low-risk activities such as open-concept foot reflexology outlets and physiotherapy clinics. These MEs only need to register with the Police and are exempted from licensing. Exempted MEs are subject to strict operating conditions including no partitions or cubicles within the premises. In addition, all areas in the premises where massage services are carried out must be visible from outside the premises. Police may revoke the exemption of any ME that does not comply with the operating conditions.
4. The Police assess each ME application on a case-by-case basis. The Police will consider other factors that are specific to an area such as the incidence of vice-related activities or any related law and order issues. Where there is information on vice in any ME, the Police will take enforcement action against the licensee, and revoke the ME licence.
5. The ME licensing framework allows legitimate businesses to operate and serve customers in residential areas, while minimising the risk of crime and vice activities through stricter qualifying criteria and operating conditions. Police's data shows that the majority of vice infringements are detected in unlicensed MEs, and not those which are regulated (i.e. licensed or exempted). The Ministry therefore has no plans to restrict all MEs from operating in residential areas.