28 Nov 2013

Speech By Mr S Iswaran, Minister In Prime Minister's Office And Second Minister For Home Affairs And Trade And Industry

Chairman CRA,
Board Members,
Distinguished Guests,
CRA and SPF Officers,
Ladies and Gentlemen,


Good morning,

I am pleased to join you at the 3rd Singapore Symposium on Casino Regulation and Crime. Held biennially, this symposium has been an important platform for the Casino Regulatory Authority (CRA) and Singapore Police Force (SPF) to forge closer ties and exchange ideas with their local and overseas partners in casino regulation and law enforcement. I would like to take this opportunity to welcome all participants, especially our foreign guests who have made a special effort to join us at this symposium.

Casino Industry in Asia

2. The casino industry is set to grow rapidly in the Asia Pacific region in the next few years. According to the Global Gaming Outlook report by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), the projected gaming revenue from the Asia Pacific region could reach US$80b, and account for 43% of global revenue, by 2015.

3. This growth is fuelled by more Asia-Pacific economies planning to develop casinos. This trend is also reflected in the growing Asian presence at this symposium. This year, we are joined by our regulatory and law enforcement partners from many regional countries - Macau, Vietnam, Japan, Korea, Brunei, China and the Philippines.

Casino Regulation for Effective Crime Control

4. These developments in the casino industry and gaming activities can also lead to greater exposure to the risk of transnational crimes. Keeping our casinos free from criminal influence will continue to be a key challenge for Singapore, as well as law enforcement agencies and regulators from other jurisdictions.

5. Since the opening of the casinos three years ago, crimes in the casinos have accounted for less than 1% of overall crime in Singapore. This has been possible through a close partnership between the Police and CRA, and a strict enforcement regime.

6. But the situation is dynamic and criminal syndicates are constantly evolving their modus operandi. Hence, we need constant vigilance, to ensure a regulatory regime that is relevant and effective. Singapore amended its Casino Control Act last year to strengthen our levers to tackle casino-related crimes. Specific offences such as cheating at play, collusion and the possession of unlawful devices to counterfeit chips, were created to comprehensively deal with the range of casino crimes.

Global Alliances Crucial to Fight Casino Crime

7. With globalisation, criminal activities are increasingly transnational in nature. It is therefore important for law enforcement agencies and regulators to collaborate closely across borders, and share best practices and information, in order to fight all crime including casino crime. This symposium is a valuable opportunity to network and learn from each other.

8. In addition, there are platforms like the International Association of Gaming Regulators (IAGR), Gaming Regulators European Forum (GREF) and the North America Gaming Regulators Association (NAGRA), which allow for collaboration among regulators. We need a similar forum for Asian regulators.

9. Although a relative newcomer, Singapore’s CRA can play an important role in bringing together Asian regulators, and facilitating substantive engagement with their European and American counterparts. The recent appointment of CRA’s Chief Executive, Mr Lau Peet Meng, as the President of IAGR is an opportunity for Asian regulators to benefit from the wealth of expertise within this global network, and to stay abreast of new and evolving trends in the gaming industry.

Significant Growth in Remote Gambling

10. Remote gambling is one such evolving trend. The revenue of the global remote gambling industry in 2012 was estimated at US$35b, with an expected annual growth rate of about 9%. This is about five times the expected growth for conventional terrestrial gambling.

Regulatory Approaches Vary Across Jurisdictions

11. Consequently, many countries have been reviewing their regulatory regimes to keep pace with this rapidly evolving industry. Internationally, there is a wide spectrum of regulatory approaches. Some countries have an open remote gambling market with many licensed operators offering a wide array of gambling products. In France, there are 20 remote gambling operators offering products such as poker, sports betting and horse racing. There are even more remote gambling operators in the UK, with a wider variety of gambling products including casino-type games.

12. Other countries have a more restricted remote gambling market. Typically, they have allowed one or two operators to offer a small number of products, subject to certain requirements including social safeguards. In Norway, remote gambling is offered by two state-owned operators which channel surpluses to social causes such as charities, sports and culture. In Hong Kong, the Jockey Club (HKJC) is the only licensee that offers horse racing, Mark 6 Lottery and football betting through both terrestrial and remote gambling platforms. HKJC is a not-for-profit organisation which uses its surplus revenue to support charitable and community projects as well as social welfare initiatives.

13. Many jurisdictions have also implemented various measures to prevent unauthorised operators from targeting their citizens. France, Italy and Denmark have measures to block access to unauthorised gambling websites. In the UK, it is an offence for unlicensed gambling operators to target its residents or advertise through online and terrestrial channels. Norway and the United States require financial intermediaries to block payment transactions with unauthorised gambling operators.

Government to Restrict Remote Gambling

14. In Singapore, we have strict laws on gambling to maintain law and order and to minimise the potential harm, especially to the young and vulnerable. Under our laws, the provision of gambling is not permitted unless specifically allowed for, by way of an exemption or license. However, our current laws do not expressly address remote gambling as they were enacted before the Internet era.

15. The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) and other government agencies have been studying the issue of remote gambling.

16. In NCPG’s 2011 gambling participation survey of the general population, 1% of respondents indicated that they gambled online. While this may seem low