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NEWS & EVENTS

CRA WORKPLAN SEMINAR 2013

10 May 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 Officers,
Ladies and Gentlemen,



Good morning,



EFFECTIVE CASINO REGULATION FOR A SAFE SINGAPORE


2013 marks CRA’s fifth year as a casino regulator. The two casinos have been in operation as part of the Integrated Resorts in Singapore for three years. CRA renewed the casino licences for Marina Bay Sands and Resorts World Sentosa earlier this year, after a robust evaluation process.



2. In this short five-year period, CRA has also built on the practical experience it has gained from casino regulation. In particular, CRA completed a comprehensive review of the Casino Control Act, which resulted in the Act being amended in November last year in order to strengthen our casino regulatory framework.



3. The casino industry in Singapore is nascent. Despite its youth, or perhaps because of it, the industry has grown quickly – in absolute terms and relative to other markets. It is also a complex and dynamic industry. We must, therefore, stay abreast of emerging trends and challenges, and ensure that our regulatory regime stays effective and relevant.



CRA Plays Core Role in Government’s Approach to Casinos


4. The two casinos have been permitted to operate in Singapore as an integral, but small, part of an entire Integrated Resort (IR) development. However, the Government remains vigilant and seeks to minimise the risks associated with the casinos’ operations in Singapore.



5. To achieve our security, social and economic objectives, we have adopted a holistic approach towards regulating the casinos. Consequently, CRA should, and does, work closely with other agencies to coordinate the Government’s efforts in managing the casinos.



6. A major concern is the vulnerability of the casinos to criminal activities. Towards this end, CRA collaborates with the Police to prevent, detect and deal with casino-related crime. To date, the incidence of crime in the casinos has been under control – over the past three years, crime reported in the casinos comprised less than 1% of overall crime in Singapore.



7. Protecting vulnerable groups and the society at large from the ills of gambling is another key priority. CRA works closely with the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) and the National Council on Problem Gambling (NCPG) to ensure that our social safeguards are effective in minimising the harm of casino gambling. We have robust social safeguards such as entry levies, exclusion orders, and casino advertising restrictions. Since the casinos opened in 2010, RWS and MBS have detected and stopped more than 28,000 attempts by minors, and approximately 15,000 attempts by excluded persons, to enter the casinos.



8. On the economic front, CRA works closely with the Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI), the Singapore Tourism Board (STB), and Sentosa Development Corporation (SDC). Together, they help to ensure that the IRs are developed and maintained as world class destinations that will continue to add vibrancy to our tourism landscape. The IRs have contributed to our economy by helping to boost tourism receipts and directly creating more than 22 000 jobs (and a further 40 000 throughout the economy).



Ensuring Regulatory Effectiveness


Firm and Fair


9. As the core of our whole-of-government multi-agency effort in casino regulation, CRA plays a critical role in ensuring regulatory effectiveness for the long term. In that regard, it is essential that CRA maintain a firm and fair regulatory stance. CRA has taken decisive and calibrated action against the casino operators for past instances of non-compliance. In turn, the casino operators have improved compliance in the areas where they have fallen short. For example, RWS revamped its compliance structure and established a dedicated compliance unit to improve oversight of its casino operations. MBS implemented regular refresher training programmes for its employees and expanded its compliance teams.



10. On its part, CRA dedicated more resources in early 2013 to increase its ground presence in the casinos for more proactive enforcement. Even as CRA steps up such enforcement efforts, it is incumbent that you also engage the casino operators through regular dialogues to foster a strong culture of compliance.



Deepen knowledge and expertise


11. To complement effective enforcement, CRA must deepen its knowledge and expertise, and develop its professional capabilities as a regulator. One important effort in that respect is the conduct of research that can help inform policies and operations in casino regulation. This will allow CRA to acquire a better understanding of the casino gaming landscape, and gain useful insights on the efficacy and effects of different regulatory measures and social safeguards.



12. This year, CRA will be working with the Home Team Behavioural Sciences Centre (HTBSC) to examine the psychological profile of local casino gamblers. This will help CRA develop a more nuanced understanding of the gaming behaviours, attitudes and motivations of local casino gamblers. Such knowledge can inform CRA’s work with other agencies, be it in operations, enforcement, or even upstream intervention for potential problem gamblers.



Regularly review regulatory regime


13. To stay ahead, CRA must regularly review the casino regulatory regime, and benchmark its work against best practices from other jurisdictions. Last year’s amendments to the Casino Control Act aimed to enhance provisions for social safeguards and effective gaming regulation, and align the regulatory framework with our economic intent in introducing the IRs in Singapore.



14. The amendments also strengthened our laws in relation to casino offences. Specific casino-related offences, such as those relating to counterfeit chips, cheating at play, collusion and unlawful interference with gaming equipment, were also introduced in the Act. These amendments rendered the Casino Control Act a more comprehensive piece of legislation to deal with the range of crimes that commonly occur within casinos.



15. Social safeguards were also enhanced as part of the amendments. Under the new Responsible Gambling Regulations that will be promulgated, the casino operators will be required to implement a Responsible Gambling programme that meets the prescribed requirements, and is approved by the Authority.



16. CRA and its key strategic partners must continue to monitor the effectiveness of the various changes that have been made to the regulatory regime, and regularly review our policies and legislation to ensure operational relevance.



Stay connected with international network


17. Beyond our shores, CRA must remain connected to the international network of regulators to tap on a wider reservoir of knowledge. I am glad to note that CRA, though a relative newcomer, has quickly risen in standing among its international peers and chosen to host the International Association of Gaming Regulators (IAGR) Singapore Conference 2012. Also, CRA’s Chief Executive was elected Vice-President IAGR for the 2012-2013 term. This speaks well of CRA and its accomplishments, and is testament to the recognition that CRA has gained from fellow international regulators.



18. CRA should continue to tap on this international network to learn from leading jurisdictions. Towards this end, CRA has signed Memoranda of Understanding (MOUs) with Alderney, Nevada, Pennsylvania and Queensland. CRA must leverage on these partnerships to enhance cooperation and conduct joint training. Such collaboration will allow CRA to benchmark its systems and processes with best practices, and to keep abreast of global trends in gambling.



Online Gambling


19. The worldwide growth of online gambling is one such trend. The global online gambling industry, estimated at US$400bn in 2011, is expected to grow at an annual rate of 9%, with the Asian market representing a significant growth opportunity. Online gambling is a new and potentially more addictive form of gambling, with greater access to the young and vulnerable. These risks will likely be magnified as the technology supporting online gambling further evolves.



20. In Singapore, there are concerns within the community over the social risks associated with this highly accessible form of gambling. The government shares these concerns.



21. Currently, various jurisdictions have taken quite divergent approaches to address online gambling. Some, like Hong Kong and Norway, are quite restrictive, permitting only a limited number of state-approved companies to offer online gambling products. On the other hand, countries such as the UK and France have well-established online gambling regulatory regimes where a larger number of licensed operators are permitted. Other jurisdictions like Australia and Nevada have only recently begun to move towards regulating some types of online gambling through a licensing regime.



22. Clearly, the online gambling landscape is complex and rapidly evolving. And, it is evident from the diverse experiences of other jurisdictions, that the governing laws and attitudes towards online gambling are varied, and reflective of different social contexts.



Government studying measures against online gambling


23. In Singapore, we remain resolute in our commitment to especially protect minors and vulnerable groups in our society from the harms of gambling, be it terrestrial or virtual. Therefore, the Government is studying measures that can be taken against online gambling, and to restrict access to, and patronage of, online gambling platforms. We recognise that there are practical challenges to this effort, not least because technological change will render complete eradication difficult. Our officials are working with industry experts to study the issues and learn from other jurisdictions, in order to formulate a strategy that is effective, relevant and sustainable. The study should be concluded by the end of the year.



Conclusion


24. Let me conclude by commending CRA and all its officers on your achievements over the past five years. You have done well as a young regulator and can take just pride in your accomplishments. However, CRA will continue to face new challenges as the gaming industry in Asia-Pacific evolves and grows. More will need to be done to keep our gaming industry clean and safe. Casino regulation in Singapore requires a concerted whole-of-government effort, and industry engagement, with CRA at the core.



25. To all CRA officers, thank you for your perseverance and commitment to your mission. I urge each and every one of you to hold steadfastly to your values, and to keep the pioneering spirit alive, as you help CRA maintain its reputation as a firm, fair and internationally respected casino regulator. I wish you a fruitful seminar.


Thank you.