28 Jul 2016

Speech by Mr Lee Tzu Yang, Chairman, Casino Regulatory Authority of Singapore

Distinguished guests, Colleagues from fellow regulatory and enforcement agencies, Friends and colleagues,

Welcome to the 4th Singapore Symposium on Casino Regulation and Crime. The last Symposium was held in November 2013. What first began in 2009 as an internal training forum, between the Casino Regulatory Authority (CRA) and the Casino Crime Investigation Branch of the Singapore Police Force, was subsequently developed to include international participants.

2. This Symposium brings together regulatory and enforcement agencies to share with one another, learn together and strengthen working relationships and personal friendships. This is especially useful for regulatory and enforcement agencies from Asia, where the casino industry and regulatory landscape are rapidly growing and evolving.

3. This year we have some 170 participants, with a rich diversity of foreign participants and speakers, who come from 16 regulatory and enforcement agencies from 11 jurisdictions. We also welcome a number of speakers from government, academia, the non-profit sector and the industry.

4. Some of you were here for the last Symposium in 2013, and some of you are old friends. We have planned to cover a range of important themes over these two days, ranging from regulatory enforcement and supervision, to technological developments within the gaming industry, as well as social safeguards. There is a change of format from 2013. There are no workshops this year, but instead we have more sessions from the experts. Networking breaks have been planned to allow all to catch up with others and have further discussions in smaller groups.

5. This Symposium takes place against an evolving industry and regulatory landscape. The business environment has become more complex than three years ago. There is continuing internationalisation of the industry, ambitious expansion in Asia, and integrated resort (IR) operators are renewing their customer offers to be more attractive.

6. Developments on the part of regulators include concerns about money laundering and transnational crime. In some countries in Asia, we have seen moves to initiate new or revise existing legislation.

7. The reasons for having casinos differ. They serve different needs, and continue to grow in many countries in the region. In our case, it was mentioned by our Prime Minister in Parliament that Singapore had not started by considering a casino, but wanted an integrated resort (IR) that would have amenities such as hotels and restaurants, with the casino to help make the IR financially viable. These would attract visitors and reap economic benefits. There are many reasons why Governments choose to have casinos.

8. We might each have different and distinctive operating environments. However as regulatory and enforcement agencies, we also have many shared objectives, common issues and challenges. These two days give us the opportunity to share knowledge and experiences, hear different views and perspectives, and engage in reflection and discussion.

9. There are many potential concerns from having casinos. We know that the presence of casinos will likely increase the incidence of problem gambling in society and resulting social issues, and give rise to potential for criminal exploitation and dishonest gaming. In Singapore, we take this carefully into account in the work of CRA.

10. Casinos are cash-intensive businesses that operate 24 hours a day, with a high volume of different transactions taking place, including financial activities such as money exchange, money transfers, cashing of cheques and so on. These have associated risks, such as money laundering, terrorism financing, illicit flow of funds and syndicated cheating.

11. There is a risk that criminals may use the proceeds of crime in the casinos or plan to cheat the casinos. Hence we need to put in place controls to ensure there is no illegitimate exploitation of the casinos. Sharing of experiences will also alert us to the changing modus operandi of criminal behaviour, and allow us to take action.

12. Why do regulators need to continue learning? The industry is dynamic and continues to change. Asia continues to be a source of growth for the industry. Whilst many Asian countries plan for legislation, the entities they seek to regulate are often part of larger regional or international organisations, which are already operating in other jurisdictions. Although regulators will face different challenges at different times, due to the social and legal environment being different, we have to look for opportunities to learn from one another, and to prepare to manage the risks and threats ahead.

13. In the years ahead, we know challenges and demands will continue and change, and we will need to hold steadfast to strong fundamental principles whilst implementing new tactics and processes. There will not be one regulatory strategy that will work well for everyone, as we need to tailor strategies to be relevant to our own needs, but we can better learn and adapt through discussions with like-minded counterparts.

14. I am confident that this symposium will be successful and meaningful for all of us. Beyond the sessions in the next two days, I hope we will make good use of the networking breaks to strengthen and renew friendships, and make new friends. May we continue our conversations beyond this Symposium. Thank you.