Local gamblers who pay for an unlimited number of visits in a year to casinos here tend to have higher incomes, Second Minister for Home Affairs Josephine Teo said in Parliament yesterday.
"For these affluent individuals who want to visit the casinos more often, such as premium players, the annual levy provides convenience," she said, adding that the levy would remain for now.
She was responding to Mr Alex Yam (Marsiling-Yew Tee GRC), who wants the annual levy removed to minimise problem gambling.
Entry fees to the casinos were raised last month when the Government announced the $9 billion expansion plans of the two integrated resorts (IRs) here, with the exclusivity period for both casinos extended to end-2030.
The daily casino entry levy for Singaporeans and permanent residents has been raised from $100 to $150. The annual levy has been increased from $2,000 to $3,000.
Mrs Teo, who is also Manpower Minister, pointed out that between 2010 - when the IRs started operations - and 2018, the number of local visitors to the casinos declined by 50 per cent.
Based on the Gambling Participation Survey - which is conducted every three years by the National Council on Problem Gambling (NCPG) - the probable pathological and problem gambling rate of Singapore residents fell from 2.6 per cent in 2011 to 0.9 per cent in 2017.
Drop in the number of local visitors to the casinos between 2010 - when the two integrated resorts started operations - and 2018.
In addition to the current levies, Mrs Teo said, other social safeguards were in place to minimise problem gambling, including an exclusion order for the financially vulnerable.
"If you're under the exclusion order, then no amount that you offer will get you through," she added.
Replying to questions from Mr Murali Pillai (Bukit Batok GRC) on casino-related crime, Mrs Teo said the annual number of such crimes has fallen about 58 per cent, from 299 cases in 2010 to 126 in 2018.
Most of the crimes are petty theft and cheating cases, and there have been fewer than 20 cases in the last decade attributed to syndicates.
The amounts of money involved in these cases ranged between $14,000 and $1.3 million, she added.
Mrs Teo assured Mr Pillai that the authorities will keep a close eye on the possibility of syndicates.
"In this case, the operators obviously have an interest... so they are minded to work with the police to stamp out infiltration of organised crime," she said.
Separately, Minister for Social and Family Development Desmond Lee said, in his reply to Mr Seah Kian Peng (Marine Parade GRC), that Singapore's casino safeguards were "among the most stringent in the world".
"We take a preventive approach by disallowing the most financially vulnerable people from entering the casinos," he said.
For example, undischarged bankrupts, those receiving financial aid and those living in HDB rental flats with six months or more of rental arrears are all barred from entering casinos and betting online with Singapore Pools.
The NCPG can also limit the number of visits a person can make to a casino each month.
Locals can voluntarily exclude themselves from casinos, fruit machine rooms in private clubs or from opening an online account with Singapore Pools.
These measures have helped reduce problem gambling in the resident population to only 1 per cent, Mr Lee said.
But he added that every family that suffers is one too many.
The authorities will work with the IRs to implement technology that helps patrons make informed decisions on their bets and control their gambling expenditure.
They will also work with the casinos to train staff to better identify those at risk of gambling problems, he said.