Singapore aims to keep local problem gamblers out of casinos


Government has faced criticism over its decision to end casino ban


Singapore aims to keep local problem gamblers out of casinos

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"We want to protect vulnerable groups from the potential harm of casino gambling," the government said
 | 12/07/2012


(Singapore).- Singapore could limit how many times problem gamblers visit its casinos under new proposed legislation, bowing to pressure to contain a rise in gambling addiction in the wealthy city-state just two years after opening two casino resorts.


Singaporeans and permanent residents who visit casinos more than five times a month may need to show proof they are not in financial distress or face restrictions, acting Minister for Community Development, Youth and Sports Chan Chun Sing told the Straits Times newspaper. "We want to protect vulnerable groups from the potential harm of casino gambling," the government said in a note accompanying the proposed amendments to Singapore's Casino Control Act put on a government website for public comment.

The government has faced public criticism over its 2005 decision to end a longstanding ban on casino gambling and open its first licensed casino resorts in early 2010, a move aimed at transforming the island-state into a vibrant tourism hub. But critics say the country is flirting with a social disaster, while proponents say casinos already helped the economy by tapping the growing affluence of Asian travelers and accelerating growth in companies catering to the wealthy.

A survey conducted by the National Council on Problem Gambling last year found that the average monthly betting amount in Singapore had risen 20 percent since 2008 to us$ 170, while the proportion of Singapore residents who gambled more than us$ 788 on average each month also increased.

The proportion of respondents classified as "probable pathological gamblers", it said, has risen to 1.4 percent from 1.2 percent in 2008. The government already restricts access for locals through membership fees of us$ 78.8 per day or us$ 1,576 a year to ease fears that casinos will fuel crime and inflict social ills.

"Onerous” proposals

Analysts were divided on the impact of the proposals, which also include a fine of up to 10 percent of annual gaming revenues generated by the operators of Singaporean two multi-billion-dollar casino-resorts, Las Vegas Sands and Genting Singapore. The maximum penalty that Casino Regulatory Authority can now impose is us$ 785,000. But after amendments to the law are passed, fines could potentially exceed us$ 200 million.

Maybank Kim Eng analyst Yin Shao Yang said the amendments were "onerous" and could hurt gaming and unnerve investors. Others, however, said the new rules will have little impact on revenues. "While the proposed amendments may present some headline risk, we don't think they would materially impact the P&L (profit and losses) of casino operators if enacted," Union Gaming, a Las Vegas and Macau brokerage, said in a report.

Both casinos have already been fined for admitting minors and for permitting Singaporeans and permanent residents to enter without paying the us$ 78.8 entry fee. Foreigners pay no admission fee.

The casinos are among the world's most profitable and together generate gaming revenues comparable to the combined gaming revenues of casinos along the Las Vegas Strip. Genting Singapore's Resorts World at Sentosa reported us$ 2.11 billion in gross gaming revenue last year, while Las Vegas Sand's Marina Bay Sands managed us$ 2.36 billion.

Fuente / Reuters