Singapore's casinos will face greater global competition, disruption: Josephine Teo

One challenge is that Singapore's casinos face increasing regional competition.
One challenge is that Singapore's casinos face increasing regional competition.PHOTO: ST FILE
A crowd filling up the casino in Marina Bay Sands.
A crowd filling up the casino in Marina Bay Sands.PHOTO: THE NEW PAPER FILE

SINGAPORE - Given the increasingly complex gaming landscape in Singapore, there is a need to consider greater consolidation of casino regulatory functions, said Second Minister for Manpower and Home Affairs Josephine Teo.

Today, Singapore has different regulations and agencies governing gambling products such as casinos, remote gambling and fruit machines operated by private clubs, she noted at the annual Workplan Seminar of the Casino Regulatory Authority on Friday (April 20).

"This piecemeal approach will not be sustainable or adequate to deal with the growing complexities of the gambling landscape and products," said Mrs Teo at the seminar held at Biopolis in Buona Vista.

The one-day seminar, which was held in conjunction with the Casino Regulatory Authority's 10th anniversary, outlined the agency's history and highlighted its future challenges.

One challenge is that Singapore's casinos face increasing regional competition.

"Competition for tourism revenues will get more intense," Mrs Teo said. "Many jurisdictions are keenly studying our integrated resort (IR) concept. Our IRs will be anxious to stay ahead of the competition."

The next challenge is that of technological disruption, in which new machines, game types and modes of payment have implications on how casino regulators establish controls, she added.


Speaking at the annual Workplan Seminar of the Casino Regulatory Authority, Second Minister for Manpower and Home Affairs Josephine Teo said there is a need to consider greater consolidation of casino regulatory functions. ST PHOTO: TIMOTHY DAVID

In order for the authority to keep up with rapid technological changes, it has been sending its officers to conferences and courses to sharpen their skills, said Mrs Teo.

However, more should be done to ensure the officers are kept abreast of technology and its impact, she added.

 
 
 

The Casino Regulatory Authority was formed as a statutory board in 2008, and had to develop and put in place regulations and standards for the casinos, said Mrs Teo.

Since 2010, when the integrated resorts started operations, casino-related crime has remained a small proportion of overall crime in Singapore – less than 1 per cent. “We have not detected organised crime linked to casino gambling taking root here,” said Mrs Teo.

Problem gambling is also under control, at below 1 per cent, she added. “This is lower than problem gambling rates in other places, like the US, Canada and Macau.”

Measures to keep the problem in check include a casino entry levy – the first of its kind in the world. The Ministry of Social and Family Development and the National Council on Problem Gambling also introduced a scheme where vulnerable individuals can be barred from entry into casinos. Another scheme which limits casino visits has also been introduced.

“All these innovations have attracted keen interest from foreign regulators,” said Mrs Teo.

She added that regulations can evolve to allow a more "holistic and coherent" system to maintain the fine balance between leeway for innovation and effective regulation.

In preparation for these developments, the Ministry of Home Affairs has started studying the broader gaming regulatory regime in Singapore.

Mrs Teo called on the Casino Regulatory Authority to build up "stamina, capabilities, strategies and integrity" in adapting to new demands.

"We must be smarter than those we are seeking to regulate," she added.