SINGAPORE: Around S$1.3 billion in casino entry fees were paid by Singapore citizens and permanent residents (PRs) between 2010 and 2018, said Second Minister for Home Affairs Josephine Teo in Parliament on Monday (May 6).
Mrs Teo was responding to a question from Marsiling-Yew Tee GRC Member of Parliament Alex Yam, who wanted to know the amount collected since the entry levy was introduced and whether it has been effective in deterring problem gambling.
Singaporeans and PRs have to pay a levy to enter the two casinos in Singapore at Resorts World Sentosa and Marina Bay Sands. This levy, originally set at S$100 a day or S$2,000 a year, was increased to S$150 and S$3,000 on Apr 4 this year.
“The daily and annual entry levies serve to deter casual and impulse gambling by locals and are part of a holistic suite of social safeguards,” Mrs Teo said, noting that the number of local visitors to the casinos fell by 50 per cent between 2010 and 2018.
The probable problem and pathological gambling rate also decreased from 2011’s 2.6 per cent to 0.9 per cent in 2017, said Mrs Teo, citing the most recent gambling participation survey conducted by the National Council on Problem Gambling (NCPG).
Mrs Teo added that the annual entry levy will be kept for now, in response to Mr Yam’s question on whether the Government has considered doing away with the yearly fee to further discourage compulsive gamblers.
“The data is quite clear - annual entry-levy holders tend to have higher incomes,” she said.
“For these affluent individuals who want to visit the casinos more often, such as premium players, the annual entry levy provides convenience.”
Mrs Teo stressed that the levy is not the only measure of deterrence and that the Government has put in place social safeguards targeting individuals who are at risk of problem gambling.
Elaborating on that, Minister for Social and Family Development Desmond Lee said Singapore’s casino safeguards are among the most stringent in the world.
For instance, those who are financially vulnerable – 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 – are not allowed to enter the casinos.
The NCPG also has powers under the Casino Control Act to limit the number of visits an individual can make to the casino each month.
Many locals have also registered under the self-exclusion scheme to voluntarily exclude themselves from the casinos and slot machine rooms in private clubs, or from opening an online account with Singapore Pools, added Mr Lee.
“The objective of the existing social safeguards is to try to minimise the negative impact of gambling by targeting the problem gamblers and the financially vulnerable," he said.
As a result of these safeguards, problem gambling affects about 1 per cent of Singapore's resident population, he said, adding that the Government plans to introduce more preventive measures.
Apart from higher levies, it is working with the casino operators to “implement technology measures to provide patrons with information to allow them to make informed decisions on their bets and better control their gambling expenditure”.
Casino gaming staff will also undergo more training to identify customers at risk of developing a gambling problem and refer them to help, Mr Lee added.
CASINO-RELATED CRIME SITUATION “UNDER CONTROL”
In a reply to a separate parliamentary question, Mrs Teo said the annual number of casino crimes fell 58 per cent from 299 to 126 cases between 2010 and 2018.
This shows that the casino-related crime situation in Singapore is “under control” and has continued to improve since the casinos commenced operations in 2010, she said.
Bukit Batok SMC MP Murali Pillai asked how many of the crimes were committed by organised crime syndicates.
Mrs Teo replied that fewer than 20 cases have been traced to organised crime groups since 2010, with the amounts involved ranging from S$14,000 to S$1.3 million.
Theft and cheating make up the majority of crimes committed in casinos, she said, adding that the crimes were "mostly opportunistic and petty in nature".
These include theft of gambling chips belonging to other patrons at the gaming tables, as well as the stealing of cash, valuables and unattended bags – offences that do not represent organised crime.
Mrs Teo said the police and the Casino Regulatory Authority (CRA) "actively manage" the law-and-order concerns related to the casinos.
“To prevent infiltration of criminal elements into the casinos, 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," she said.