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Home / Features / In-the-Know / Tighter casino rules and enhanced social safeguards proposed  
Published: 06 Jul 2012 10:00PM (Singapore)
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Tighter casino rules and enhanced social safeguards proposed
Amendments of the Casino Control Act have been proposed following a review of the existing laws. Members of the public have been invited to give feedback on the proposed changes from 09 July 2012.
 
By Mabelle Yeo

Tougher laws have been proposed to arm authorities in their fight against casino related crimes.

Carrying chips worth $10,000 or more outside a designated area, possessing counterfeit chips and materials to make such chips and various methods of cheating at games will be outlawed if the proposal is accepted.

Enhanced rules against casino-linked crimes are among the changes proposed after the Casino Control Act was reviewed.

In early 2012, Mr S. Iswaran who is a Minister in the Prime Minister's Office, the Second Minister for Home Affairs and the Second Minister for Trade and Industry announced that the Government would review the legislation holistically.

“The reason for doing so is we’ve had the IRs for more than two years. We’ve gained considerable experience. The (government) agencies have been able to better understand the operating environment and some of the considerations going forward. The Integrated Resorts also have a better sense of the working environment in Singapore,” said Mr S. Iswaran who was speaking to reporters on 6 July 2012.

The Minister said the opening of the casinos in 2010 has had no major adverse impact to law and order.

Casino-linked crimes have so far been mostly petty in nature and make up less than one per cent of the crimes here.

“Here, we’re really aiming to enhance our investigation and law enforcement levers. At the same time, pertaining to the gaming environment and operational requirements, raising the standards, in line with best practices internationally...we want to ensure we have the levers in place to keep crime out of the casinos,” added Mr Iswaran.

To mitigate potential negative effects of having casinos in Singapore, the Government had, from the start, put in place strict social safeguards and tough law enforcement measures.

The Casino Control Act was passed in 2006.

Passed even before the construction of the IRs was completed, the Act provides a regulatory framework for the management of casinos in Singapore, which includes rules that outlaw illegal betting and gaming syndicates and subject parties guilty of casino or gambling-related crimes to punishment.

The review of the Act was conducted by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI), Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports (MCYS), Ministry of Finance (MOF), and the Casino Regulatory Authority (CRA).

Proposed amendments to the Act covered a few broad areas, namely Crime, Gaming, Social, Economic and Tax.

Apart from ensuring that the legislative framework is better aligned with the original intent of having the IRs, the proposed changes would help strengthen social safeguards, improve law and order in a gaming environment and ensure casino operations keep pace with international standards and expectations. Changes would also be introduced to improve tax administration. 

Proposed changes to the Gaming aspect of the legislation include rules linked to the licensing regime of casinos and special employees, the international market agent or junket operators regime and notifications of unresolved patron disputes.

Mr S. Iswaran, Minister in the Prime Minister's Office, Second Minister for Home Affairs, Second Minister for Trade and Industry, announces that the proposed amendments to the Casino Control Act will go through a public consultation phase. PHOTO: Matthew Wong

New measures will also be made to minimise the social cost of gaming by protecting low-income and underage individuals who are becoming addicted to gambling.

Proposed enhancements to existing social safeguards include new rules to ensure casino operators constantly review and benchmark their Responsible Gambling practices against international best practices of other casinos, and new provisions that would empower the National Council on Problem Gambling (NCPG) to issue visit limits and impose casino exclusions of financially vulnerable individuals who are frequent visitors to the casinos.

Families and individuals will also be allowed to apply for such visit limits. 

In addition, deterrence against casino operators and patrons who disregard these social safeguards will be strengthened.

“This set of amendments pertaining to social safeguards is intended to enhance the regime, which we are already enforcing vigorously,” emphasised Mr S. Iswaran.

Opened in 2010, the two Integrated Resorts (IRs)―Marina Bay Sands (MBS) and Resort World Sentosa (RWS)―were developed as part of the country’s broader, strategic, economic blueprint to make Singapore a distinctive and prime destination to be in.

Both IRs provide a wide array of world-class entertainment, leisure offerings and ample premium space for Meetings, Incentives, Conventions and Exhibitions (MICE) events. Casinos make up one of the many components in the IRs.

“The primary intent we had in the advent of the IRs in Singapore was to ensure that we have a sustained economic benefit to Singapore, broadly in terms of job creation and value-add to the economy, and specifically also in terms of the tourism sector, ” pointed out Mr S. Iswaran.

By the end of 2011 alone, Singapore achieved 13.2 million visitor arrivals and S$22.3 billion in Tourism receipts, up from 9.7 visitor arrivals and S$12.4 billion in Tourism Receipts in 2009.

Apart from the creation of about 22,000 jobs within the IRs, their presence has lent critical support to more than 40,000 jobs in various sectors of the economy, such as hospitality, retail and foor and beverage, and provides vital business opportunities for local Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs).

An evaluation panel will also be appointed by the Minister for Trade and Industry to assess the performance of the IRs.

“We want to ensure that there is a disciplined and systematic process for periodic assessments so that both the IRs and the government agencies have a way to engage in dialogue to ensure that aspects of the IRs that are important to us, beyond the casinos as well, are well-maintained and kept in tandem with international standards and expectations,” said Mr Iswaran.

The panel’s findings and feedback will be relayed to CRA for their consideration when processing casino licence renewal applications.

Mr S. Iswaran, Minister in the Prime Minister's Office, the Second Minister for Home Affairs and the Second Minister for Trade and Industry, explains that the amendments ensure that “the casino regulatory regime continues to keep pace with developments in the industry and international best practices”. VIDEO: Matthew Wong

In line with continuous efforts to raise public engagement between Government and citizens, and to encourage Singaporeans to actively participate and involve themselves in the shaping of national policies that may affect their lives, the Singapore Government is inviting members of the public to give feedback on the proposed changes.

“The intention (of this public consultation) is really to gather views from the public and also to engage the industry and other stakeholders to get a sense of what their perspectives are before we finalise the Bill and move it in Parliament,” said Mr Iswaran.

The public consultation starts on Monday, 09 July 2012.

The proposed amendments are accessible via http://www.reach.gov.sg then.

Comments and feedback to the changes can be emailed to mha_cca_consultation@mha.gov.sg by 06 August 2012, 5 pm.

The Bill to amend the legislation will be finalised and presented in Parliament by the end of 2012.

 

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