Singapore has since 2010 – the year its two casino resorts opened – seen “very few” casino-related crimes that have links to organised crime syndicates. So said Second Minister for Home Affairs, Josephine Teo, on Monday in the city-state’s parliament. The Singaporean official also commented that the country’s gaming-related crime situation was “under control”.
“Since 2010 – ever since we started the tracking, when the [casinos’] operations commenced – there have been fewer than 20 in total [criminal matters] that are traced to syndicates. If you look at the amounts of money involved, it was between SGD14,000 [US$10,272] to SGD1.3 million,” Mrs Teo said. She was addressing questions from member of parliament (MP) Murali Pillai on casino-related crime trends in Singapore.
The minister noted that the Singapore government was keeping a close watch on the situation. “In this instance, the [casino] operators obviously have an interest – they have fiduciary interest, and so they are minded to work with the police to stamp out the possible infiltration of organised crime,” Mrs Teo told parliament.
Singapore currently operates a duopoly casino market shared between the Marina Bay Sands resort, run by a unit of United States-based casino firm Las Vegas Sands Corp; and the Resorts World Sentosa casino complex operated by Genting Singapore Ltd. The Singapore government said in early April that it had agreed to the expansion of the city’s two integrated casino resorts; and in return for their aggregate investment – SGD9 billion – the respective operators will continue to hold a duopoly on casino resorts in the country through to the year 2030.
Speaking in parliament on Monday, Mrs Teo noted that the number of casino crimes recorded annually in Singapore had fallen by 58 percent over the course of nine years, from 299 cases in 2010 to 126 cases in 2018.
“The vast majority of crimes committed in the casinos are mostly opportunistic and petty in nature,” Mrs Teo said. The official noted that casino thefts and cheating at gaming tables were amongst the most common gaming-related offences in Singapore.
The minister told parliament that the local police had a “zero-tolerance” approach to casino crimes.
“The Casino Regulatory Authority (CRA) licenses casino employees and subjects them to stringent checks. Police exchange information with their counterparts in other countries on the latest casino-related crime trends and persons of interest,” Mrs Teo said.
She and other Singapore officials were quizzed at the Monday session regarding the effectiveness of the casino-entry levy, which is imposed on Singaporeans in an effort to deter impulse gambling and wagering among people that can ill afford it.
In her remarks, Mrs Teo said that about SGD1.3 billion in casino entry fees had been paid by Singapore citizens and permanent residents between 2010 and 2018, noting that the number of local visitors to the casinos fell by 50 percent during that period.
The Singapore government had announced recently that local citizens and permanent residents faced a 50-percent hike in the daily entrance levy, to SGD150, with effect from April 4. The annual levy was increased to SGD3,000 from SGD2,000.
“Based on the gambling participation survey conducted by the National Council on Problem Gambling (NCPG) every three years, the probable ‘problem’ and ‘pathological’ gambling rate of Singapore residents in 2017 was 0.9 percent. In 2011, it was 2.6 percent,” said Singapore’s Minister for Social and Family Development, Desmond Lee, in response to questions filed by MP Seah Kian Peng.
“Our casino safeguards are among the most stringent in the world. We take a preventive approach by disallowing financially-vulnerable people from entering casinos,” Mr Lee said.
The official defined the “financially vulnerable” as including undischarged bankrupts; those receiving financial aid from the government; and people living in rental flats who have six months or more of rental arrears. These people were automatically barred from entering casinos, Mr Lee noted.
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