From today, the daily casino entry fee for Singapore permanent residents (PRs) and citizens will go up by 50 per cent to $150 and the annual fee, from $2,000 to $3,000.
The Government will also set rules on how far in advance these levies can be paid, and work with casino operators to help identify people at risk of developing a gambling problem. These are among the social safeguards to be introduced in the coming months, even as the operators of both integrated resorts (IRs) get the go-ahead to expand their gaming spaces.
In a joint statement yesterday by four ministries, the authorities said Marina Bay Sands (MBS) and Resorts World Sentosa (RWS) will pump in $9 billion to build world-class attractions and their exclusive rights to run a casino here will be renewed till end-2030.
But their gambling revenue will be further taxed and additional safeguards put in place to rein in problem gambling, added the statement by the Home Affairs, Social and Family Development, Finance and Trade and Industry ministries.
The Home Affairs Ministry (MHA) said the new rules on advance payment of entry levies will take effect in August.
This means a Singapore PR or citizen who has paid the daily entry fee can purchase entry for the next 24-hour visit only six hours before his first visit ends. Similarly, a PR or citizen who has paid the $3,000 annual fee can buy the pass for the next 12 months only six hours before his current pass expires.
The decision to raise the entry fees took into account various factors, MHA has said. These included the problem-gambling situation in Singapore, changes in household income levels, the prevailing prices of alternatives to the local casinos and general economic conditions.
Daily casino entry fee for Singapore permanent residents and citizens from today, up from $100.
Annual fee for casino entry for Singapore permanent residents and citizens from today, an increase from $2,000.
In a separate statement, Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing said: "While the IRs have been successful on the economic front, we have also been closely monitoring the potential social impact of the gaming segment."
He added that problem gambling has not worsened since the IRs opened in 2010, but the Government is still wary of the dangers posed by gambling, especially online gambling. The National Council on Problem Gambling has said the probable problem and pathological gambling rate has dropped from 2.6 per cent when the IRs opened to 0.9 per cent in 2017.
Beyond the new levies, the two IR operators have also agreed to work with the Social and Family Development Ministry to study ways to help gamblers make more informed decisions on how much to gamble. IR employees will also be trained to spot gamblers at risk of developing a problem, and refer them to help.
Pastor Billy Lee, executive director of Blessed Grace Social Services which helps people who are in debt, said the higher casino entry fees will not deter addicts, but could put off first-timers or social gamblers.
"It might be too much of a hassle and too much to pay for them to go in," he said. "This way, you prevent them from falling into that trap."
But he warned the real pitfall for many Singaporeans is online gambling because of its convenience.
Agreeing, Madam Lucy Wee, a counsellor at The Silver Lining Community Services, said many gamblers who seek help at her centre are hooked on gambling online rather than at casinos.
Certain behaviours could indicate a gambling habit, she added. "They are always in need of money and they come back very late. They look very tired, anxious and distracted all the time."