Sun, Jan 13, 2013 - Page 9 News List

Regulating the impact of Singapore’s growing casino market

The Singapore government is amending legislation to make casinos diversify in order to protect their population from gambling addiction and attract tourists unrelated to gambling and betting

By John O’Callaghan and Kevin Lim  /  Reuters, SINGAPORE

The operators, which have been fined for admitting minors and failing to collect the levy for the government, will face a maximum penalty of 10 percent of annual gross gaming revenue. The current cap on fines is S$1 million but, if fully enforced, the new ceiling could be closer to S$200 million.

A panel will also be set up by the trade ministry to help the Casino Regulatory Authority determine how attractive the resorts are as tourist destinations — an assessment that will apply to the renewal of their casino licenses from January 2015.

“Protecting vulnerable groups and the society at large from the harm of casino gambling is another priority,” Singaporean Second Minister for Trade and Industry S. Iswaran said in October.

For those deemed to be at risk, the new rules include a monthly limit on casino visits to bolster existing safeguards.

Under a program now run by the National Council on Problem Gambling, more than 85,000 people have banned themselves from the casinos and nearly 1,300 more were excluded at the request of family members, the latest data shows. Another 43,000 people who are bankrupt or get state aid are automatically banned.

Singapore’s “archaic and outdated” rules on Internet betting are a future target for changes, Yap at Stamford Law said. “Problem gambling and massive tax leakages and lack of visibility continue to pervade this sector.”

For Genting Singapore, gaming revenues at Resorts World Sentosa fell 15 percent in the first nine months of last year from the same period of 2011. Analysts have cut earnings estimates and downgraded the stock.

Third-quarter casino revenues at Marina Bay Sands fell nearly 30 percent, Las Vegas Sands said. Still, the Singapore casino had a gross profit margin above 40 percent — higher than any of the company’s US and Macau properties.

Despite the tougher climate, the money rolls in.

“The domestic market is the one that gives you the adrenaline rush when it first opens, but it will be sustained by inflow from the foreign players,” Genting’s Lim said.

“As we open more facilities, that will give us an edge in marketing overseas and in telling the world we are not just a gaming resort, but we have other things for families to do. It does help us in our gaming revenue,” Lim said.

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