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NEWS & EVENTS

THE INTERNATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF GAMING REGULATORS (IAGR) 2012 CONFERENCE

22 Oct 2012

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


Ms Susan Hensel, President of the International Association of Gaming Regulators,
IAGR Board of Trustees
Chairman and Board members of the Casino Regulatory Authority
Distinguished Guests
Ladies and Gentlemen



Introduction


1. Good morning to all of you and let me welcome to the 2012 International Association of Gaming Regulators Conference. It is my pleasure to address you at this platform, which brings together gaming regulators from around the world in a spirit of cooperation and exchange. Let me also extend a special welcome to our overseas delegates to Singapore and hope you’ll have a pleasant stay here.



Growth of Gaming in Asia Pacific



2. According to the 2011 Global Gaming Outlook report by PricewaterhouseCoopers, Asia Pacific will be the fastest growing region for casino gaming from 2011 to 2015. With a projected five-year compounded annual growth rate of 18% for the period, the Asia-Pacific region will dominate the international gaming marketplace, with its share of the global market increasing from 29% in 2010 to 43% in 2015 [1]. It is timely that this year’s IAGR conference is being held here in Asia for the first time and I hope that this conference will offer all participants an opportunity to better understand the regulation of the gaming industry from an Asian perspective. The presence of fellow regulators from developed gaming jurisdictions beyond Asia will also add valuable insights based on your respective regulatory experiences.



The Singapore Experience



3. In Singapore, we have a nascent casino sector. The journey started in 2005 when the Government decided to allow casinos to operate in Singapore as a small part of a larger leisure tourist destination called an Integrated Resort (IR). This term, Integrated Resort, was coined as a clear statement of our intent and expectations. We envisaged that the Integrated Resort would offer a wide range of amenities, including hotels, restaurants, MICE facilities, theme parks and museums, with the casino as a small but catalytic part of the Integrated Resort. They were expected to yield economic and tourism benefits, give a boost to local employment, and make Singapore a more compelling tourist destination.



4. Our decision to allow casinos to operate was made after careful and deliberate study, and extensive public consultation and public debate. Once the decision was taken, we had to put in place a rigorous and comprehensive regulatory framework, with attendant social safeguards, to protect the interest of Singaporeans. Along the way, we consulted closely with gaming regulators from other jurisdictions, many of whom are here today. We studied your casino regulatory frameworks and legislation, learnt from your systems and processes, and adapted your best practices to our context. The Casino Control Act was passed in 2006 to provide the main legislative framework for the regulation of casinos in Singapore – covering areas such as the integrity of gaming, law and order, and social safeguard provisions.



5. In administering our regulatory regime, we have adopted a whole-of-government approach towards the regulation of casinos and this is embedded in the way that we have enforced our regulatory framework as a whole. The Casino Regulatory Authority (CRA), under the charge of the Ministry of Home Affairs, takes the lead in regulating the casino industry. In doing so, it works closely with other agencies within the Government. CRA partners the Police in protecting our casinos against the threat of criminal infiltration. Protecting vulnerable groups and the society at large from the harm of casino gambling is another priority. In this regard, CRA works closely with the Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports and the National Council on Problem Gambling, in order to implement safeguards to minimise the social impact of casino gambling. CRA also works closely with the Ministry of Trade and Industry and Singapore Tourism Board who oversee the development of the IRs as top-notch destinations that will continue to add vibrancy to our tourism landscape.



6. Let me just give you a sense of what has happened to the tourism scene in Singapore since the advent of the Integrated Resorts. Singapore welcomed a record 13.2 million international visitors in 2011, up by 13% from the year before. Tourism receipts totalled $22.3 billion in 2011, an increase of 18% from 2010. In tandem with the rise of the middle class and growth in tourism in Asia, the two IRs have helped to boost our visitor arrivals and tourism revenue. They have also created jobs for locals and created more business for supporting industries. Some 22,000 direct jobs have been created by the IRs and investments from the IRs have exceeded $13 billion. Casino-related crime remains under control, and we continue to keep a close watch on the social impact.



Maintaining Regulatory Effectiveness


7. But beyond this initial phase, the challenge is in sustaining regulatory effectiveness so that the IRs continue to contribute to Singapore’s economy while the associated risks and downsides are minimised and mitigated. The risks associated with gaming are common to all jurisdictions, including money-laundering, organised crime, loan-sharking, fraud, cheating and problem gaming.



8. The risks will become more complex. Globalisation has led to an increase in transnational crime. Crime syndicates no longer operate within national borders and they are becoming more sophisticated. They function like quasi-corporate organisations which use modern business techniques. These syndicates often employ individuals with professional expertise in information technology, law and accounting, in order to facilitate their criminal activities. They also leverage on advanced information and communications technology to network with other syndicates, avoid detection by law enforcement agencies, or render their illegal activities untraceable.



9. These trends underscore the need for greater collaboration and co-operation among gaming regulators and enforcement agencies. Through partnership, regulators can enhance mutual understanding and learning, improve the quality of gaming regulation, and be better positioned to meet the emerging regulatory challenges.



Strengthening Regulatory Co-operation


10. The work of IAGR is a good example of how cooperation among regulators has created substantive benefits for member countries. As a global network of international gaming regulators, IAGR serves as an excellent platform for its members to learn and exchange knowledge. At this juncture, let me specifically express Singapore’s appreciation to IAGR and the international regulatory community for the help that IAGR has rendered to CRA, especially in its early days. Mr Raja Kumar, who is here with us today and is CRA’s first Chief Executive, said that it was through a “cold call” that he had contacted Mr David Ford, the former Chairman of IAGR, in 2006 to make contact with the international gaming regulatory community. As the new kid on the block, we had a lot to learn. The IAGR community welcomed Singapore, then a fledging casino jurisdiction, into its fold. IAGR has been most helpful to CRA in its regulatory journey. In this spirit of regulatory co-operation, I am also happy to note that CRA will be signing memoranda of understanding with its counterparts from Alderney and Pennsylvania later today.



11. Singapore’s hosting of this year’s conference serves as an opportunity for us to express our appreciation and to give back to the IAGR community. CRA is also committed to playing its part in contributing to the international gaming regulatory community. Mr Lau Peet Meng, CRA’s current Chief Executive, has been leading a project team of IAGR members to develop a multi-jurisdictional form for business applicants that may be used in all member jurisdictions. This initiative would reduce compliance costs for the gaming industry without compromising the depth of probity investigations and gaming integrity. I understand that members’ endorsement for this form would be sought at this conference.



Reviewing the Regulatory Regime for Continued Effectiveness


12. Besides strengthening regulatory co-operation, it is also important that jurisdictions review and update their regulatory and legislative regimes from time to time to ensure relevance and effectiveness, while staying abreast, if not ahead, of trends in the industry.



13. In Singapore, the IRs have been in operation for slightly over two years now. With the experience gained in regulating the casinos over this period, we embarked on a comprehensive review to ensure that our casino regulatory framework continues to be effective going forward.



14. We recently completed the review and the Casino Control (Amendment) Bill is currently before Parliament. The Bill covers a wide range of amendments, aiming to strike a balance between the need for an effective regulatory regime with genuine business considerations, while protecting the financially vulnerable, in particular, protecting them from the harms of problem gambling. Our regulatory requirements and operational processes will be refined to keep pace with international best practices and industry developments. At the same time, we will strengthen our law enforcement and casino regulatory levers, and enhance our social safeguards regime.



15. Let me briefly highlight three key amendments to the Act that we have proposed. The first is to ensure that the IRs continue to develop, maintain and promote their facilities as world-class tourist destinations. This is consistent with our objectives when we embarked on this venture. The Amendment Bill proposes the establishment of an independent Evaluation Panel to assess the non-gaming aspects of the IRs. This evaluation will inform CRA’s deliberations when it processes the grant or renewal of casino licences. Secondly, to strengthen our social safeguard measures, we will introduce casino visit limit arrangements which may be imposed on local, financially vulnerable casino patrons who visit the casinos frequently. Our National Council on Problem Gambling will be empowered to issue visit limits. Individuals and their families can also apply for a visit limit. This visit limits regime is intended to complement the current casino exclusion regime that we already have in place. There is a role for individuals, families and third parties to play and this is part of our ongoing effort to ensure that our social safeguards regime continues to remain robust and effective. Thirdly, to provide for greater calibration in regulatory responses to breaches by casino operators, we will raise the maximum financial penalty which may be imposed in the event of serious breaches from the current cap of $1 million, to 10% of the casino’s annual gross gaming revenue. This is a signal to the seriousness with which we take to breaches which are egregious and are of sufficient gravity to warrant higher penalties.



Conclusion


16. Let me conclude by highlighting a few points. We operate in a dynamic global economy. The entities we seek to regulate continue to innovate and, in some instances, also test regulatory boundaries. New industry trends are emerging, and the Asia Pacific region is expected to lead the growth of casino-style gaming even as we see innovation in other forms of gambling such as in the areas of technology.



17. Against this backdrop, it is opportune that regulators are congregating in Singapore for this year’s IAGR conference. IAGR remains an important platform for regulators to network, build relationships, collaborate and most importantly, share experiences to better meet the challenges of gaming regulation. The task ahead is a big one but one which I think is well within the capability of IAGR and all of its members.



18. On this note, I wish all of you a productive conference and thank you for inviting me.

[1] Based on the 2011 Global Gaming Outlook report by PricewaterhouseCoopers available at http://www.pwc.com/gr/en/publications/assets/global-gaming-outlook-2011-2015.pdf