CRA WORKPLAN SEMINAR 2012
24 May 2012
Speech By Mr Richard Magnus, Chairman CRA
Minister, Prime Minister's Office, Second Minister for Home Affairs and Trade and Industry, Mr S Iswaran,
Fellow Board Members,
Thank you Minister Iswaran for taking time off your busy schedule to share with us your insights into the development of CRA and the casino industry in Singapore.
2. Let me welcome all of you again to the CRA Workplan Seminar 2012. This Workplan Seminar is an important one for us, as we review and consider our workplans for the coming year.
UPDATE ON INSPECTION
3. Let me start by giving you an update on the full-scope inspection which I had announced at the last Workplan Seminar.
4. Prior to the commencement of the inspection, CRA had studied very closely the inspection framework adopted by other regulatory counterparts in Nevada and Queensland, especially. At the same time, we recognized the need to adopt international best practices to Singapore’s unique regulatory requirements. A consultancy firm with international experience came onboard to assist CRA in developing a more robust and confident framework that suits our requirements in the Singapore context. We also invited a former senior Australian regulator who had helped us in the early days in developing our processes, Mr Phil Goff, with vast experience in regulating casinos to assist us in the study, as being part of our team. Our audit framework comprises a detailed methodology and a spectrum of inspection tools, which would allow CRA to assess if the casino operators have implemented the internal controls approved by CRA.
5. The inspection itself entails comprehensive on-site inspections and very rigorous checks on more than 15 different aspects and areas of casino operations. This is being conducted concurrently at both casinos, by our team of more than 20 CRA Inspectors, on a full-time basis. The casino operators have cooperated during the inspection in the provision of relevant information and records, and the casino employees have also made themselves available to our CRA Inspectors when necessary. I am quite happy at this stage to say that good progress has been made and we expect to complete the inspection in the later part of this year.
LEARNING FROM INTERNATIONAL PARTNERS
6. Minister made reference to learning from international partners that even as we wrap up the inspection, CRA would be finalizing the preparations for the International Association of Gaming Regulators (IAGR) conference, as mentioned earlier on by Minister. CRA is honoured to be assisting IAGR with the organization of the event, and we intend to have, of course, maximum participation of our officers at this particular conference. This would again be another valuable learning opportunity for our officers to find out and have conversations with their counterparts about best regulatory practices in different parts of the world, and this is especially important as both the casino operators in Singapore are international players with global operations.
7. On the topic of learning from our partners, I would like to highlight that through the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed with the Nevada Gaming Control Board (NGCB) in May last year, CRA officers from the Licensing and Investigation Divisions were attached to the NGCB for training from 12 to 23 of March 2012. The officers and their counterparts exchanged valuable insights on licensing and investigation issues.
8. Another partner we signed an MOU with last year was the Queensland Office of Liquor and Gaming Regulation. We have been in close contact in the past year, sharing information and expertise, especially in the area of gaming technology which is Queensland’s strength. We have also been exploring mutual training opportunities.
DEEPENING EXPERTISE, DEVELOPING PEOPLE
9. The Workplan theme for this year is ‘Deepening Expertise and Developing People’ so I will ask for time to make some references to the way in which CRA has done so. From our referenced jurisdictions, we have learnt not only hard skills in regulating casino operations, but also soft skills in the area of people management. Through dialogue with our various international partners, we have learnt about some of the pitfalls to avoid, given the benefit of the experiences they have had. It is clear that casino regulation is a niche area requiring specific skill sets. It takes time for us to hone the right instincts in our officers, and we can ill afford to lose them to the industry which can pay much higher salaries. Hence, we need to attract the right people with the required competencies, nurture them, and most importantly to retain them. Without an attractive scheme of service, CRA cannot perform its important mission of keeping Singapore safe through a robust and effective regulatory regime. And I think it is good news that the Minister has given us this morning that the details of the scheme will be announced in the later part of this year.
10. This year’s theme for the Workplan signifies the centrality of our people in ensuring that we are able to fulfill our mission – keeping criminal influence out of casinos, ensuring honest gaming, and protecting the vulnerable in our society from the potential harm of casino gambling. Hence, whilst we fine-tune our regulatory approaches, we recognize that our people remain at the heart of the work. Without good people, even good laws can be poorly applied to achieve perverse outcomes.
11. But first of all, let me affirm that we are off to a good start, that we have good people in the organization. We have put in place a HR framework, which is robust and sensitive to train them well to do their jobs.
12. More than 74% of our CRA officers have tertiary education and 27% of them have good honours degrees. About half of our officers hold professional degrees in law or accountancy, or have background in law enforcement and regulation. Others bring with them vast experience that are relevant to their job functions. But working together as a dynamic team, these are the special people with the unique skill sets we need to regulate the casinos well. But we must not rest on our laurels. There are challenges ahead and Minister has outlined quite a number of the operating environment challenges that CRA would find itself in. We need to continually review our scheme of service to ensure that CRA remains a premier employer, attracting the right kind of talent.
13. Our officers have already excelled at their work so far in CRA’s young history. In 2011, CRA’s Director of Licensing, Ms Evon Ng, was awarded the Minister for Home Affairs National Day Award for her contributions to the Home Team in leading her team to formulate and implement various robust licensing and approval regimes to achieve CRA’s objects of preventing criminal infiltration and ensuring the integrity of gaming. In addition to her, Senior Assistant Director of Inspection & Compliance, Low Cheng Khem, and Senior Assistant Director of Planning & Policy, Benny Wong, both received Commendation Medals conferred by the Prime Minister's Office. These were for the instrumental roles they played in developing very sound policies which form an essential part of the robust casino regulatory framework, which we have today.
14. It has been four years since CRA was operationalised as a statutory body, and more than two years since the casinos were opened. As CRA and the local casino industry mature, our officers too, need to keep themselves up to date and grow together with the organization.
15. I am therefore delighted, that in the inaugural exercise for the CRA Continuous Education Framework, two sponsorships were awarded to our officers, one for a Masters and the other for a Bachelors’ Degree. And this is part of our efforts to develop our people and support staff aspirations to upgrade themselves, enhance the technical competency and professionalism of CRA employees.
16. Now, in addition to the education framework, CRA officers can look forward to a more comprehensive training roadmap in the coming year. The Human Resource Division is in the midst of developing a Training Framework which would provide a structured programme for officers’ learning and development throughout the course of their careers. Having the benefit of experience from the past few years, it is timely that we develop this training roadmap to ensure that CRA officers are well prepared for the challenges ahead.
17. CRA will push for more of such opportunities for learning. In the year ahead, we intend to build up our officers’ capabilities in the area of regulatory forensic investigations. We have learnt from our international partners that as the gaming industry in a locale matures, issues and cases would also increase in complexity. We must stay ahead of all these developments.
18. In conclusion, we have our work cut for us in the coming year. The CRA Board would forge on, in the oversight of the regulatory governance of the Singapore casino industry. Within CRA, the Board would maintain sound corporate governance within the organization, and continue to provide guidance where needed. I would also like to put on record our thanks to Mr Leo Mun Wai for his contributions during his four-year term on the Board. Mr Leo recently stepped down from the Board for personal reasons and we wish him all the best in his future endeavours.
19. As news reports and gaming analysts laud Singapore as potentially the second largest gaming destination in the world, CRA’s role really is vital in keeping the industry well-regulated. In this challenging environment, it is vital for CRA to have a clear vision (Minister used the word ‘clear focus’) to strive towards -- one that will inspire the staff as they engage their intellect and spirit to rise to the challenges ahead, and one that will send a clear signal to our stakeholders that we are determined to do our job well. We will need to carry out our duties professionally and with integrity, so that we could be trusted by the public, the casino operators, and our strategic partners, to be impartial and effective while doing our part to uphold the safety and security in our country. I look forward to the unveiling of the vision statement for the CRA even as we have this precious moment in order to re-gather our thoughts, our philosophies, our focus and our vision, as we mark this transition to become a mature and internationally-reputable regulator.
20. Thank you again and I wish you a very pleasant seminar ahead.