Tuesday 28 February 2012

Singapore's Casino Control Act under review in 2012

By S Ramesh, Channel NewsAsia, 26 Feb 2012

The Government is currently reviewing the Casino Control Act, which among other things, governs the operations of the two Integrated Resorts (IRs) in Singapore.

This was disclosed by Minister in the Prime Minister's Office, Mr S Iswaran, who added that the review is timely.

Mr Iswaran also heads a multi-agency committee looking into issues concerning the IRs.

It has been two years since both Resorts World Sentosa and Marina Bay Sands started operations in Singapore.

And with the two IRs reporting some 135,000 people visiting each casino last year, a stock take is timely.

Mr Iswaran said: "Responsible gaming is an important aspect of the entire integrated resorts and responsible is not just about regulation, it is also about the operators themselves, stepping up as good corporate citizens. If you look at the practices around the world, if you look at Australia and if you look at some of the other countries, they are an important part of the equation.

"Many of them understand very clearly that they have to be ensuring a responsible gaming regime as part of the overall evolution of the market because commercially or in terms of their standing in the committee, it is not in their interest to have some of the egregious aspects become a problem in the community at large.

"The government has a role to play as well. We need to define clearly what our expectations are. Some of these can be achieved through rules and new legislation or regulations. Some of these would have to be working with the community groups, the National Council for Problem Gambling and other interested parties, and the casino operators working together to implement some of these schemes."

Just earlier this week, the Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports gave details of gambling trends in Singapore, in particular the types of people and the profiles of the people visiting the two Integrated Resorts.

Of particular concern to the government are those from the low income group who frequent the integrated resorts.

On the operations side, the review will look at jurisdictions which have evolved in this area.

Mr Iswaran said: "There are elements pertaining to the economic aspects, there are elements that pertain to the overall security and crime aspects, and there are elements pertaining to the social aspects which we need to look at. The agencies are now reviewing it and it is part of the process of adjusting to the advent of integrated resorts in Singapore and how we need to maintain a dynamic balance in the way we work with them, to ensure that we achieve our economic objectives whilst minimising the social ills which we are concerned about genuinely.

"When you look at the social aspects, we need to look at whether any specific amendments that are required in order to address, whether it is very high frequent gamblers, what kind of regulatory tools we have at our disposal to address some of the concerns of that regard, as well as the financially distressed groups as well."

Mr Iswaran said economically, the IRs have done well - contributing to nearly 1.5 per cent of Singapore's GDP.

He said: "When we introduced the integrated resorts in Singapore, the casinos were a small part of a larger project and there were several non-economic contributions we were expecting from them. We have seen the evolution of that whether it is in terms of jobs creation, economic value add and so on. The challenge for us is to work out a framework with the IR operators on how we can continue to work with them, to ensure that our entire IR is of a world-class standard and continues to serve us well."

The outcome of the review of the Casino Control Act would be known in the second half of this year.

Not leaving things to chance
Editorial, The Straits Times, 27 Feb 2012

FRESH measures under consideration barely two years after casinos began operations here may give cheer to those who have long argued about the social ills that gambling brings in its wake. But the measures being mulled over by the Government say more about its determination to anticipate and stay on top of potential problems - and not so much because of a need to patch unexpected or gaping holes in legislation and regulations. Thankfully, the authorities are moving to act early. Just as they did before the onset of casino operations here, when controls were put in place to give strong protection against organised crime taking root, illegal moneylending and money laundering, and a rise in vice activities. So too with measures to safeguard Singaporeans such as through exclusion orders and entry levies, tight rules on advertising, and the availability of counselling. And where operators have crossed the line, the response has been quick - whether over their provision of free shuttle bus services from the heartland; promotion of casinos at community events; or announcing winners on websites.

The latest survey by the National Council on Problem Gambling released last Thursday showed that participation in gambling here since both integrated resorts opened in 2010 actually dropped to 47 per cent last year, compared with 54 per cent in the pre-casino era of 2008. This might seem counter-intuitive, but some analysts think it suggests that the casino novelty factor is wearing off. That is a welcome development for anyone who has harboured concerns.

Even so, two findings are weighing on the minds of the authorities: an emerging group of low-income gamblers who bet large amounts; and how to deal with frequent gamblers whose habit puts them at risk of becoming problem gamblers. Hence the moves being considered to prevent these from becoming a tide are to be welcomed. Measures could include expanding the third-party exclusion orders list to include low-income earners who are on short-term assistance schemes, and taking similar steps that some casinos abroad use on patrons who visit frequently.

They are warned about the risks of gambling, access could be limited, and they could be banned if staff suspect they are addicted. It would be helpful if casinos take on the task of assessing those patrons who turn up at their gaming tables. It is in their interest to do so, and show that despite the negative perceptions that exist about the business, they are capable of acting responsibly.

Low-income gamblers are a worry

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